Knicks’ Obi Toppin had heated ‘verbal altercation’ with Tom Thibodeau

Obi Toppin, New York Knicks
Apr 2, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin (1) reacts during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks face numerous key decisions in the forthcoming off-season. One of the most significant revolves around Obi Toppin, the former first-round pick, and his place in the team’s future.

Obi Toppin’s Future with the Knicks

Entering his fourth season next year, Toppin averaged 7.4 points this past campaign, which concluded with a premature playoff exit. However, as long as Tom Thibodeau remains the Knicks’ head coach, it seems unlikely that Toppin will displace Julius Randle from the starting lineup.

Given Thibodeau’s penchant for Randle, a physical power forward, Randle is likely to be retained this off-season. Despite drafting Toppin a few years ago, the Knicks’ style of play hasn’t heavily featured a transition offense, which is Toppin’s preferred game.

Clash with Thibodeau

In Game 4 against the Miami Heat in the playoffs, Thibodeau opted not to use Toppin. This decision sparked a verbal dispute between the coach and the player. Despite this clash, no lasting animosity was reported, just a competitor eager to contribute to his team’s success.

In an excerpt from The Athletic:

“According to league sources who were present, once the final buzzer sounded Toppin aired his grievances to Thibodeau. The 24-year-old wants to play, and he wants to win. That evening, neither happened. An intense verbal altercation occurred between the player and coach as the group trekked to the Kaseya Center visiting locker room in Miami. It spilled into the postgame meeting once the doors closed.”

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A Possible Departure from New York?

Toppin’s future in New York may well come to an end this off-season. With Randle commanding the same position and Toppin’s shooting skills not convincing enough for significant playtime—he shot .344 from beyond the arc this past season, attempting 3.7 per game—his time with the Knicks may be limited.

Given his defensive challenges and failure to maximize his size advantage in the paint, a team with a more transition-focused style of play might suit him better.

While getting back the 8th overall pick in the first round seems improbable, the Knicks may simply need capital if they aim to trade for a third star to pair with Jalen Brunson and Randle.

With Kyle Kuzma hitting the free agent market, the Knicks may choose to spend if they prefer a different style of player. However, an elite shooter could be more beneficial, given the Knicks’ need to diversify their offense and secure crucial shots in the playoffs. Their struggle in high-pressure situations was evident with Toppin missing several three-point attempts against Miami, despite taking high-percentage shots.