Now it can be told why New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau declared earlier that Evan Fournier is the frontrunner for the starting shooting guard spot.
Grimes’ bid suffered a massive blow as the promising second-year wing will miss the Knicks’ preseason opener against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night. Thibodeau delivered the grim news about Grimes to reporters at the end of the team’s Monday practice.
Grimes has been bothered by left foot soreness since after day one of the training camp.
After Grimes’ breakout in the NBA Summer League and the reports that the Knicks made him untouchable in the failed Donovan Mitchell pursuit, all signs point to a major role for the 25th pick of the 2021 NBA Draft.
But Thibodeau squashed those speculations last week in the training camp as he indicated his preference to retain Fournier in the starting unit.
In typical Thibodeau fashion, Grimes has to earn his minutes. But the two-time NBA Coach of the Year did not rule out Grimes from supplanting Fournier in the near future.
“You just asked me a question [on whether Grimes or Fournier would start] like at that moment, and that holds true for everyone, based on the information that we have right now and what we’ve seen, that’s how it will start. But the thing is, we don’t know how the season unfolds. So everyone [must] be ready. Like I told you, I don’t get stuck on that [who’s starting or not].”Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau
Last year, Thibodeau yanked Kemba Walker from the starting lineup and replaced him with Alec Burks, who played out of his natural position. This year, the same thing could happen if the Knicks’ starting lineup with Fournier does not lead to winning.
When Grimes returns from sick bay, he is expected to join the second unit with Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin and Isaiah Hartenstein.
“I can tell you that those guys will have major roles. If you go out there and play well, you get more [playing time]. If you don’t play well, then the next guy gets in there. Sometimes, there are injuries or foul trouble or whatever, but I’ve said this many times, it’s how the group functions together.Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau
Grimes showed flashes of a solid 3-and-D player in his rookie season when he earned his major break due to injuries and the COVID-19 outbreak within the team. He followed that up with a stellar showing in Las Vegas last July leading the Knicks to the NBA Summer League Finals. But it was not yet enough to push Thibodeau to start him over Fournier.
“[Grimes] handled the ball a lot in high school and we feel like that’s part of what he can do. Obviously, I like the shooting and defense is a major part of his game. He hasn’t shown us [yet] how good of a rebounder he is. He’s a much better rebounder than what we’ve seen. I think he can push the ball up the floor. The other thing I like is he plays real fast.”Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau
With already three players — Brunson, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle — commanding the ball in the starting unit, Grimes can have more reps as a ball handler with the second unit next to Rose and Quickley.
A lot of people raised their eye brows when the Knicks tried to keep Grimes out of the Mitchell talks. It is so easy to forget that he was a five-star recruit out of high school and a projected lottery pick entering his freshman year in college. But it did not work out for him at Kansas and he needed two more years at Houston to revive his game.
Grimes finally showcased his potential as the Cougars’ main man, averaging 17.8 points on a stellar 40.3 percent from behind the arc as a volume shooter (8.3 attempts per game). He was also a solid rebounder, averaging 5.7 per game as a junior after Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson and his staff dedicated a drill solely focused on making him him crash the boards.
Last season, Grimes only collared 2.0 rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench as a rookie. Basketball-reference projects Grimes to average 4.8 rebounds per-36 minutes in his second year, which Thibodeau believes he can do.
But first thing first, Grimes has to be healthy to have a shot at the starting spot.
“We’ll see who’s available first. Obviously, the rotations are longer in the preseason then as we get closer [to the season], it will tighten up.”Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau
Cam Reddish, a former lottery pick who is on the outside looking in, is expected to earn playing time with Grimes on the sidelines.
Jericho Sims (sore groin) and Svi Mykhailiuk (undisclosed injury) are both questionable, according to The Athletic.
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