Knicks rookie Jericho Sims has more to offer according to Tom Thibodeau

New York Knicks rookie center Jericho Sims is a man of few words. He let his game do the talking.

Sims did just that and delivered his first career double-double, providing the silver lining in New York Knicks’ 110-98 loss to across-the-river rival Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Starting for Mitchell Robinson, who was a late scratch due to a non-COVID illness, the 6-foot-9 Sims was spectacular. The 58th overall pick looked like the steal of the draft after filling up the stats sheet with 10 points on an array of lobs and putback slams, 13 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three blocked shots.

“Jericho was phenomenal,” Knicks forward RJ Barrett said. “It’s really great to have a guy like that on our team. He just goes in there and gives it his all.”

Before the game, Barrett pulled Sims and told him: “Roll out fast. I can throw you lobs, so that way, even if we miss a shot, you’re in a good position.”

Sims faithfully followed Barrett’s lead. His first basket was an alley-oop dunk from Barrett at the 8:47 mark of the opening quarter.

“He was great on defense. He was all over,” Barrett said.

Sims set the tone for the Knicks’ swashbuckling first half with an assist, a steal, the alley-oop dunk, and a block in the first three and a half minutes. His energy on both ends of the floor was infectious and pushed the Knicks to a 17-point first-half lead.

It was just the tip of the iceberg. Sims’ best stretch as a pro came in the third quarter, where he scattered six points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. Sims had too many highlights — from swatting away Andre Drummond’s layup to meeting Kevin Durant in the air and disrupting the shot with his verticality to catching a lob over Drummond — that rocked the Garden.

With Sims all over the place, the Knicks built a 21-point lead. The Knicks were still leading by 18 when he left in the final 2:20 of the third quarter after playing high-octane basketball for nine minutes and 40 seconds straight. By the time Sims returned to the game, the Nets had already grabbed the lead on Patty Mills’ three-pointer.

The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the Knicks, but Sims’ performance should give the Knicks front office insurance if ever Robinson bolts out this summer.

“He played well against these guys the last time. Because you’re going to do more than one thing, his ability to blitz a pick and roll or to hit to get the ball out of their hands and get back to the basket and get back out, then offensively putting pressure on the rim. That’s huge. And the rebounding was critical,” said Thibodeau effusive in praising Sims’ play. “He’s gotten a lot better at it. He’s got great feet. He’s got strength. The athleticism is terrific.”

Then Thibodeau revealed that Sims is just starting to scratch his potential. He has more to offer than just catching lobs and grabbing rebounds.

“We still haven’t seen the playmaking in the paint that he has, but as time goes on, we’ll see that,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a very good playmaker in the paint.”

Sims felt more comfortable out on the court than in the press room. He kept his answers short and just let the game do his talking.

“[It’s] Nothing out of the ordinary,” Sims said about his double-double performance. “I just played a little bit more and tried to get as many rebounds as I could. Finish as many lobs and dunks as I can. It’s as simple as that.”

Sims made it look so simple playing basketball.

His growth is one of the most promising developments for the Knicks after the All-Star break.

Sims said everybody in the team is in his ears at some point, and he’s just soaking everything like a sponge. Taj Gibson has taken him under his wings.

“He’s always in a good position because he’s played for a while,” Sims said about Gibson. “He’ll give me pointers here and there over the course of the game on how we can score and stretch the floor. That’s what I’m looking to do at some point.”

The Knicks got a steal in the draft.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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