Knicks’ choppy bench play in preseason not a concern to Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau, Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks
Apr 10, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (5) talks with head coach Tom Thibodeau during the second half against the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

New point guard Jalen Brunson seamlessly fit in with the rest of the New York Knicks starters. Their chemistry was off the charts in the preseason, a big reason they went 3-1.

But that can’t be said with the Knicks’ second unit, supposedly one of their strengths going into the new NBA season.

Their bench play cost them a sweep in the preseason when they squandered a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in Indianapolis. Immanuel Quickley’s struggles were symbolic of their second unit’s sloppy play.

Quickley has set a personal goal to shoot above 40 percent in his third season. That didn’t happen in the preseason. He only shot 34 percent from the field.

“It was choppy. But we have to do better. They have to get to know each other, that sort of thing. And also, we’re playing a lot of different combinations. And then Derrick (Rose) not being out there, I think that impacts that group greatly. We saw that last year, as well. But I like what Isaiah (Hartesntein) brings to that group. I’m not worried about [Quickley] making shots. I know he’s gonna make shots. I think as we get Quentin (Grimes) back, that will help some, too.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau I Sunday post-practice media availability

Derrick Rose played sparingly, just 32 minutes over three games, as Thibodeau played it safe. Rose, 34, is coming off an ankle injury.

Team president Leon Rose referred to him as the heart and soul of the 2021 Knicks team that shocked the NBA with their first postseason run since 2013. His absence last season was one of the major reasons the Knicks fell out of the top 10 in the East.

Hartenstein, the Knicks’ new backup center, provides rim protection like Nerlens Noel did during his time in New York. But he’s not just a one-dimensional player. The German center hit three three-pointers in four preseason games. Noel, nor any other Knicks center not named Taj Gibson, never hit a three-pointer during Thibodeau’s time. His vision is a gift for an NBA big man. He had eight assists in four games, mostly coming from the high post.

Grimes returned in the Knicks’ final preseason game after a left foot soreness sidelined him since the first day of training camp. He was rusty and missed his two attempts, all from long range.

Thibodeau has faith in Rose, who slimmed down to his rookie weight, to stay healthy; in Quickley to overcome his early shooting slump and in Grimes to exceed his expectations.

That three-guard lineup, along with Obi Toppin and Hartenstein, gives Thibodeau a versatile second unit that can play with a faster pace and have enough space in the halfcourt set with smart passing, cutting (to the basket) and lot of shooting.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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