Tom Thibodeau on rumors of his coaching exhausting Knicks players: ‘I don’t really care’

May 19, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau walks off the court after losing to the Indiana Pacers in game seven of the second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has been talked about recently for his reputation for running his players into the ground following him into the 2023-24 NBA season. Thibodeau wasn’t buying those rumors when he had a chance to respond.

Tom Thibodeau responds to exhaustion rumors on Hart & Brunson’s podcast

Dec 5, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau talks with New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) on the sideline against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first half at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Thibodeau sat down on the “Roommates Show” with Knicks stars Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson and made things clear about the way he approached the season in managing his players’ minutes and workloads:

“I don’t ever worry about that,” Thibodeau began when asked about his thoughts on the “overworked” criticism. “So look, there could be a game that you play extended minutes, you know. So if I said to you, ‘Josh, how many minutes did you average over the course of the season?’ You know. No one would say 33. Right? If I said, ‘Jalen, how many did you average?’ No one would say 35.” Thibodeau posed before comparing the heavier workload that other stars around the league have in the playoffs comparison to two of his lead guys.

“Most teams right now, look at the playoffs, their three top players are playing in the 40s. But no one says that. Like, for whatever reason it stuck with me. It is what it is. I don’t really care.”

Knicks: Thibodeau scaled back on allotting heavy minutes in 2023-24

NBA: Playoffs-New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers, tom thibodeau
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks averaged 48.1 minutes per game in 2023-24, tied for the least in the league. Individually, Thibodeau did not play a single player for more than 35.4 minutes a night. That contrasts from the 2020-21 campaign where he played Julius Randle 37.6 minutes, getting close to the 40-minute marker, and even more from 2011-12 when he coached the Chicago Bulls and former All-Star Luol Deng to 39.4 minutes per contest, which led the league that year.

Knicks’ injuries may not have coincided with Thibodeau’s coaching style

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau with guard Jalen Brunson (11) against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a more balanced distribution of minutes, the Knicks did suffer many injuries in 2023-24. Julius Randle played in only 46 games before suffering a season-ending dislocated shoulder. Mitchell Robinson missed 51 games and more in the playoffs, chiefly with an ankle injury. OG Anunoby did not get a chance to flow with his dominant performance after an elbow ailment robbed him of 27 games down the back half of the year and Isaiah Hartenstein dealt with various infirmities that cost him seven outings as well.

Thibodeau & his players don’t care about the criticism

The numbers tell one story. The injury report tells a completely different one. It could be that the Knicks were not the benefactors of good luck in the health department. Hart and his Knicks teammates stray away from the notion that Thibodeau’s coaching was detrimental to their health. That speaks the most volume at the end of the day. They don’t care about the criticism.

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