After losing 13 of their last 16 games and blowing several 20-point leads in the final week before the All-Star break, New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau found himself in a brewing firestorm.
An SNY report cited sources who framed Knicks executive vice president William Wesley pinning the blame — at least in part — on Thibodeau for their disappointing performance this season.
“I talk to Wes all the time. I don’t respond to rumors and any of that stuff,” Thibodeau told reporters after Wednesday’s practice. “You know I know the drill here. I’ve been here before, so I don’t worry about any of that stuff.”
The Knicks haven’t been as successful as they would have envisioned when they signed Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to infuse more shot creators in their offense that stalled in last year’s playoffs. Walker had been shut down for the remainder of the season while Fournier battled inconsistency. Last year’s All-Star Julius Randle struggled to play with them until he’s appeared to have figured it out before the pause.
Thibodeau is on his third coaching job after quickly wearing out his welcome in Chicago and Minnesota. He is familiar with how tough the New York market is, having been an assistant coach to Jeff Van Gundy in the late 90s to early 2000s. It remains to be seen if he can survive this challenging season — an undesirable sequel to their magical playoff push last year.
The All-Star break gave Thibodeau and the Knicks, who are 3.5 games out of the final play-in spot, to reflect on their spiraling season.
“It’s just a reset. It’s a chance to look at exactly where we are, the things that we did well, the things that we didn’t do as well as we would’ve liked, focus on what we want to improve upon, and just get ready for the next game,” Thibodeau said.
The Knicks are expected to get a boost with the impending return of Derrick Rose to the fold after Walker’s exit. The rotation logjam still exists, which the Knicks front office tried to solve at the trade deadline to no avail.
Thibodeau dismisses any talks that he’s not in sync with the front office led by his friend and former agent Leon Rose, who has close ties with Wesley.
“I talk to Leon every day. I talk to Wes every day. So that doesn’t change,” Thibodeau said.
But despite dismissing those talks, Thibodeau can only shut down the outside noise by producing results. Having the fourth most brutal remaining schedule while delicately balancing winning and player development will be a tough challenge.
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