Cam Reddish’s Knicks debut will have to wait, playing time not guaranteed

“I’m not expecting to come in playing 35, 40 minutes whenever the next game is, but I’ve just got to come in and work my tail off,” Reddish said. “The rest takes care of itself.’’
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Cam Reddish got his wish to get traded. But it appears the Knicks‘ newly-acquired wing finds himself in the same situation he was trying to escape.

Reddish will not be available when the New York Knicks face his former team, Atlanta Hawks, on Saturday. He will be out for a while due to a sprained right ankle, coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters Friday.

On top of that, the defensive-minded coach hinted that Reddish’s spot in the rotation isn’t guaranteed.



“It will all be based on performance. It’s a fresh start for him. We’re loaded at the wing position right now. So, we’ll see,” Thibodeau said.
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Who would you like to remove from the current Knicks rotation for Cam Reddish?x

As tantalizing Reddish is as a talent, he is also a polarizing one.

Reddish flashed teases of his potential during last season’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, which he capped with a 21-point effort and plus-4 differential in the Game 6 loss. But he’s failed to follow that up with an inconsistent start this season. However, it can be argued that the lack of a defined role in the loaded Hawks lineup could be a culprit, which is the primary reason why he sought a trade.

In December, his pair of 30-point games that highlighted a five-game stretch of double-digit scoring was encouraging. But it will be tough for him to find playing time in a similarly loaded Knicks team that has started to turn the corner.

The Knicks have won seven of their last 10 games, beginning on a Christmas Day blowout against the Hawks. During that stretch, the Knicks have rediscovered their defense, ranking first in defensive rating (102.8) and second in opponents’ second-chance points (10.7), opponents’ fastbreak points (8.5), and opponents points in the paint (39.6).

“That’s the other thing — the group that is playing now are playing well. So, we want to keep that going,” Thibodeau said.

Then add Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker to the mix when they become healthy, and the Knicks are stacked.

“You have to base it on who’s available and what the rotation looks like,” Thibodeau added. “No one’s playing, 10, 11, 12 guys, that’s for sure.”

But all is not lost for the 22-year old Reddish, who has the physical tools to excel as a dynamic two-way force for the Knicks if he can put it all together. Thibodeau said the Knicks scouts feel strongly about the no. 10 pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. Reddish has the size and athleticism that neither of the current Knicks’ wings possesses.

“I don’t think you could have enough wings. That’s sort of the way our league has gone and I like his versatility. He can play three positions in today’s NBA. I think that’s important,” Thibodeau said.

When Reddish is healthy and ready, his pathway to a meaningful role is by playing tough defense, which he had shown in spurts but not consistently during his first three-and-a-half seasons in the NBA.

Thibodeau said he talked to Reddish on the phone after the trade was finalized Thursday.

“I have certain thoughts [about him] because of playing against him, watching him, and getting his thoughts about coming in and just welcoming him to the organization,” Thibodeau said. “Sometimes the change of scenery is good for people. So, we’ll see how it unfolds.”

On the surface, the Knicks have won the trade. But the logjam in the wing rotation could stunt Reddish’s growth. It smells like the Knicks aren’t done tinkering with their roster.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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