Knicks: Obi Toppin ready to step up as Julius Randle enters COVID-19 protocols

Barely 12 hours after Tom Thibodeau revealed that Julius Randle is nicked up, the New York Knicks announced that the All-Star forward had entered the health and safety protocols.

The news came on the heels of Randle’s worst game as a Knick — a season-low five points on 2 for 11 shooting. Randle had more turnovers (3) than field goals (2).

“He’s nicked up,” Tom Thibodeau said after the Knicks escaped the lowly Detroit Pistons Wednesday night. “I think he’s giving us everything he has. That’s what I love about him. He’s not making any excuses. He just gets out there. He keeps going.”

Randle’s lackadaisical play, along with the starters, forced Thibodeau to finish the game with his bench in the final 15 minutes. The Pistons outscored the Knicks by 27 points during Randle’s 26 minutes on the floor. It was a microcosm of a larger problem for the Knicks.



Randle’s net rating of minus-6.3 is currently one of the worst in the league (387th in the league and 90th among 98 players who average more than 30 minutes per game). That’s the second-worst net rating among Knicks starters next to Kemba Walker’s minus-8.0, although it has improved since he returned from nine DNPs.

While Alec Burks supplied the points with a career-high-tying 34 points, 19 in the fourth quarter, Randle’s backup, Obi Toppin, provided the energy on both ends.

Toppin was plus-36 in 22 minutes. The sophomore forward finished with modest numbers — nine points on 3 of 5 shooting, four rebounds, one assist, and a steal — but his energy, constant movement, and defense helped the Knicks erase a 14-point deficit.

“Obi — the energy he plays with and guarding (Saddiq) Bey who had it going pretty good,” Thibodeau said. “So we had a number of guys who stepped up.”

Toppin held Saddiq Bey to 1 of 5 shooting in the fourth quarter after the Pistons’ forward torched the Knicks with 24 points on 8 of 14 shooting in the first three quarters.

Toppin hasn’t played more than 28 minutes in his NBA career except for the Summer League. But that is bound to change with Randle on the sidelines.

Randle can use the time in protocols to rest and recover from whatever is ailing him besides COVID-19. But most importantly, use the time to zoom out and see what Kemba Walker saw during his banishment from the rotation.

Walker admitted the banishment as a blessing in disguise and came back with a different mindset. Perhaps Randle could take a cue from Walker.

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