Knicks: Grimes carves solid role as RJ Barrett works his way to shape

quentin grimes, knicks

RJ Barrett shook off some rust with a scintillating fourth quarter in Minnesota as he brought the New York Knicks home in a hard-earned 96-88 win Tuesday night.

Barrett hit his final three shots to overcome a woeful 0 for 7 shooting in the first three quarters. He scored all of his eight points in the final 5:49 to stave off the depleted Timberwolves’ challenge.

“[RJ] made big plays down the stretch for us, and that’s what I like. He didn’t force and then he found a rhythm by the end of the game. I thought he read the game very well down the stretch, and that’s the big thing,” said Tom Thibodeau effusive in his praise.

Barrett said he’s happy to get the opportunity to get back into the game and catch his rhythm down the stretch after his shooting struggles.

Over his last two games, since his return from the health and safety protocols, Barrett has only played an average of 25 minutes. His shot — 7 of 25 from the field and 2 for 12 from downtown — is still shaky most of the time.

“The first two games, I’m just trying to play within the team concepts and find my rhythm again,” Barrett said. “Any time you’re out for 10 days, it’s going to affect you whether you have COVID or not.”

Barrett said he only experienced mild symptoms, and getting tired easily is one of them. But he quickly added he’s feeling better after catching fire in the fourth quarter.

As he continues to work into game shape, rookie wing Quentin Grimes seized the opportunity to prove that his 27-point outburst against Milwaukee before he also had COVID-19 was not a fluke.

Grimes had his third consecutive double-digit scoring in Minnesota. He poured in nine of his 11 points in the second quarter, helping the Knicks build a 17-point lead.

Over his last three games dating back to his breakthrough performance against the Bucks, Grimes averaged 17.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 steals, and five triples per game on a staggering 44 percent.

Derrick Rose’s ankle injury has opened up a spot in the second unit, and Grimes walked into it and grabbed it. Grimes had seen his role grow since his return averaging more playing time (28 minutes) over Barrett.

Thibodeau has fallen in love with the rookie’s 3-and-D play that helped solidify their defense in recent games. The defensive-minded coach hinted that Grimes would be a regular fixture in the second unit moving forward.

“I really thought at the start of the season, the bench really played well together. That was a big plus for us,” Thibodeau said. “When you move some of those guys, their chemistry changes. Then you have to find a way with that. You’re getting more and more information [as you do that].”

“So, we know Quentin is a very good player. He provides something that we need — high energy, very good defense, shotmaking, and real toughness.”

Grimes came into the NBA with a reputation as a tough 3-and-D player. But some people thought he was a reach at the 25th pick. But Grimes’s recent play proves the Knicks’ scouting department got it right.

Adam Tatalovich (left) was hired by the New York Knicks as an international scout this year with the help of his mentor and good friend, Kelvin Sampson (right). Sampson is the head coach of the University of Houston Cougars, where Knicks rookie Quentin Grimes played for two seasons. (Photo from Adam Tatalovich Twitter account and Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports)

Grimes had been on the Knicks’ radar way before the NBA Draft as one of their new scouts, Adam Tatalovich, had extensive intel on the former Houston standout. Tatalovich unofficially worked for Grimes’ coach at Houston, Kelvin Sampson, last college season before the Knicks scooped him up last February.

It was Sampson who recommended Tatalovich to Knicks GM Scott Perry when the team was looking to beef up their international scouting department.

“When that position came up, I called Scott and said: Look, there’s a young man in Adam Tatalovich. Here’s his story. I couldn’t recommend him highly enough. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s good, and he’s ambitious, and he’s task-oriented. Whatever job or task that you want him to do, I think he’s going to be outstanding,” Sampson told Empire Sports Media before the season began.

Tatalovich first burst into the basketball scene under Michael Jordan and late Kobe Bryant’s trainer Tim Grover after graduating from Indiana University. Before the Knicks, he had stints with the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, and Sacramento Kings as video coordinator and pro personnel scout. He also coached in Australia (NBL) and China (CBA) before returning to his roots in Serbia at the height of the pandemic last year. Just recently, he acquired Serbian citizenship to stay in Eastern Europe. Tatalovich is also involved with the Serbian national basketball program as an assistant coach.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau raves about Quentin Grimes, suggesting more action for the rookie

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The New York Knicks might have something special with rookie Quentin Grimes out of Houston. The shooting guard stands at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, but showcases incredible energy as his most valuable attribute early in his career.

Despite the Knicks struggling through a cold streak, they secured an impressive victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, Christmas Day. They are gearing up to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night at 8 PM, a winnable game considering they will be without D’Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley.

However, the Knicks are still going through lineup changes with players returning from the NBA health and safety protocols list.

With RJ Barrett still gaining back his stamina after dealing with Covid, head coach Tom Thibodeau utilized Quentin Grimes more prominently to help supplement his minutes. Against Atlanta, Grimes played 25 minutes, recording 15 points, two assists, two steals, and two rebounds. He shot 5 of 12 from three-point range and played solid defense, earning the only positive +/- off the bench.

After the game, the Knicks’ coach raved about Grimes’s qualities, specifically hitting on his defensive contributions.

“The energy and defense, that’s a big component,” Thibs said. “He is a terrific wing defender for a young guy.”

The best way to get into Thibodeau’s good graces is to play aggressive defense and provide unparalleled energy. Grimes runs up and down the floor without missing a beat, utilizing those young legs to provide his team with a spark.

“He’s high energy, he’s tough, he takes the right shots, he plays defense,” Thibodeau said.

Another efficient development regarding Grimes is his shot selection. The Houston product is hitting an impressive 45.5% of his three-point attempts, including 42.3% from the field. He hasn’t been a shot creator, but simply getting in the right positions to knock down good opportunities. He’s hit 95.5% of his field goals off assists. Every single three-point field goal made this season has been assisted, which is something the Knicks need with several players taking on the role of creators.
Thibs didn’t only mention Grimes but also fellow rookie Miles McBride, who has also just flashed signs of potential this season.

“The intensity that he plays with, he is all out and so is Miles McBride and that is a different weapon that we have,” Thibodeau said. “Both of those guys have been terrific. You can add Jericho [Sims] to that. I love our young guys. They are great workers, they are competitive, they are smart and those types of guys always get better.”

The rookies and youngsters have been an essential factor in keeping the Knicks alive and in games this season, despite falling below .500. Their schedule is lightening up a bit after a tough stretch the past few weeks. They will take on Minnesota, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Toronto, Indiana, and back-to-back games against Boston. All of these teams are sub .500 squads, giving the Knicks a bit of hope to string together a good stretch of wins and get back into playoff contention.

One Knicks youngster who should be eating into Evan Fournier’s minutes

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At some point, New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has to give Evan Fournier the Kemba Walker treatment. While it would be incredibly disappointing to bench a player the front office signed to a four-year, $73 million contract after just 32 games played, at the very least, his minutes must be reduced.

Fournier is averaging 29.3 minutes per game this season, in line with his total from last year when he averaged 13 points, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals and posted a +2.8 +/-. In fact, his offensive rating was better last season, but his defensive rating also showcased more efficiency. This season, Fournier hosts the worst net rating of his entire career at -7.0, with an assist percentage down to 9.3% compared to 17% last year.

Whether it be the players around Fournier or the scheme that Thibodeau is utilizing, he looks like a fraction of the player the Knicks spent big money on this past off-season. After letting Reggie Bullock walk in free agency, it seems as if the Knicks desperately need a 3-and-D player — someone who will post up in the corner and get into advantageous positions to hit shots but also provide adequate defense. Fournier heaves shots off his back foot and off-balance, resulting in wild misses.

The French native has failed to equate his scoring abilities with even average defense. The Knicks may consider using Quentin Grimes in a more prominent role considering his metrics.

Grimes spent the last 10 days on the Covid health and safety protocols list, finally being activated against the Washington Wizards on Thursday night, despite not making an appearance. Grimes is averaging just 3.6 points over 8.5 minutes per game, making 14 appearances this season. However, before he sustained a positive Covid test, he had an electrifying performance against the Milwaukee Bucks on December 12.

Against Milwaukee, Grimes posted 27 points, shooting 53.8% from deep and recording three assists and three steals. His aggressive style of defense is exactly what the Knicks need at the shooting guard position. Fournier’s inconsistent feet and positioning put the team in a state of vulnerability.

Ultimately, the Knicks can’t justify benching Fournier completely, but taking five minutes or so from his about 30 per game could go unnoticed, with Grimes showcasing talented defensive attributes.

Grimes has a defensive rating of 107.8, but his offense has come up short under a small sample size. However, Evan has been wildly inconsistent with his shooting, hitting just 18.2% of his three-point attempts against Washington on Thursday, good for just 2 of 11. That is an unsustainable success rate, and while he has been more efficient over the past week or so, he still shooting 31.3% from deep in the month of December and 36.4% on the season, down 4% from last year.

Do you think that the Knicks should give Grimes some of Fournier’s minutes? Comment here!

Quentin Grimes rejoins Knicks; Bradley Beal enters health and safety protocols

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Rookie wing Quentin Grimes is the latest Knick to clear the health and safety protocols after RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin, the team announced Thursday.

It’s welcome news for the New York Knicks that will seek a second straight win against the Bradley Beal-less Washington Wizards at the Garden.

Beal is the latest NBA player to enter the health and safety protocols shortly after the Knicks announced that Grimes rejoined the team. Beal averages 22.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists against the Knicks. He joined Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the health and safety protocols. But despite their absence, the Wizards are still formidable with Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford, and Montrezl Harrell.

Both teams are coming off victories but have lost seven of their last 10 games.

Last Tuesday, New York opened their three-game homestand with a 105-91 rout of the lowly Detroit Pistons. On the other hand, the Wizards beat the Utah Jazz, 109-103, last Saturday to snap a three-game skid.

Meanwhile, it is unclear how much playing time Tom Thibodeau would give Grimes, Barrett, and Toppin as the Knicks are currently stacked even after losing Derrick Rose for eight weeks due to ankle surgery.

The Knicks recently signed Danuel House, Jr. to a 10-day contract via the hardship exception rule. House appeared 16 games for the Houston Rockets before he was waived. He fielded calls from the Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, and the Los Angeles Lakers before signing with the Knicks, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

A 3-and-D specialist, House averaged 8.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists over five seasons with the Rockets, Phoenix Suns, and the Wizards.

Currently, the Knicks have 15 available players on their roster: Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Alec Burks, Grimes, Toppin, Taj Gibson, two-way player Jericho Sims and 10-day contract signings House, Tyler Hall, Matt Mooney, and Damyean Dotson.

Immanuel Quickley, Kevin Knox, Miles McBride, and Nerlens Noel remain in health and safety protocols.

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The Knicks should put more trust in their rookie guard against Golden State

quentin grimes, knicks

The New York Knicks were most recently embarrassed by the Milwaukee Bucks at home for their third consecutive loss, but they did walk away with one silver lining, the performance of rookie guard Quentin Grimes.

The Knicks allowed every Milwaukee starter to post double-digit points, but Grimes shined for the Knicks, recording 27 points, three steals, three assists, and three rebounds. His defense wasn’t altogether impressive, but a lack of communication and bully-ball by Milwaukee hurt New York’s efficiency, which has dropped to 25th in the league on the defensive side.

Life doesn’t get any easier this week as Tom Thibodeau and his squad prepare to face off against the Golden State Warriors. The Knicks will likely be without RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin once again, who’ve both entered COVID-19 protocols after coming in contact with a positive case against the Raptors.

The Warriors have bounced back from a tough season last year to once again being a dominant team, hosting a 21–5 record. While they have been a bit inconsistent as of late, coming off a 93 point dud against the Philadelphia 76ers, they represent a far more formidable team compared to New York.

Similar to Giannis Antetokounmpo, stopping Steph Curry is simply impossible. Limiting him is your best bet, especially since he’s shooting 40% from three-point range and attempting 13.4 per game, a career-high. Based on those numbers, he’s simply playing at an ungodly level, and he’s only a few three-point shots away from breaking Ray Allen’s all-time record.

Averaging 27.1 points per game, Curry constantly needs to be pressured with an on-ball defender, which is where Grimes may come into play. The expectation is that Alec Burks will return as the team starting point guard, but Grimes should earn significant minutes against Golden State, especially after setting a Knicks record with seven 3-PT point shots made, hitting on 53.8% from deep.

Ultimately, they need to continue building off that confidence and not stifle his progression. Given Quentin’s high-energy style of play and aggressive on-ball defending, he could be the perfect matchup on Curry. At this point, it’s worth a shot. We could see a healthy rotation of Immanuel Quickley and Grimes on Curry throughout, keeping both fresh and a defender in his face all game.

Knicks rookie Quentin Grimes auditions for rotation spot with career game

quentin grimes, knicks

With the New York Knicks‘ season unraveling with mounting losses and COVID-19 cases, rookie Quentin Grimes stepped up and made the most out of a rare opportunity.

Grimes, the 25th pick of this year’s draft, provided the silver lining in the Knicks’ wire-to-wire 112-97 loss to defending champion Milwaukee Bucks Sunday noon at Madison Square Garden.

After Obi Toppin entered the health and safety protocols on Saturday, RJ Barrett joined him Sunday morning. Starting point guard Alec Burks also took a day off reportedly to attend to his wife, who gave birth to their child.

Grimes was thrust into a starting role alongside Derrick Rose with the three key players out. The rookie out of Houston did not disappoint as he shattered two Knicks rookie records with a career-high 27 points and seven triples.

“I really didn’t expect it [to start],” Grimes said. “I found out about 90 minutes before the game when we knew RJ couldn’t play that I was going to start. I just needed to keep my mind right and do whatever I was doing in college to prepare myself for moments like this. It was definitely a surreal moment, and I was just trying to soak it all in.”

Grimes started tentatively and turned the ball over for his first play of the night. But a couple of minutes later, he set up Evan Fournier for a pullup jumper. Then he sank his first shot — a three-pointer — off a Julius Randle feed nearly seven minutes into the game.

“Once I kind of let my first shot go, I got comfortable,” Grimes said.

Oh boy, he did.

Grimes pumped in eight points in the Knicks’ 15-4 run in the second quarter as they trimmed the Bucks’ 21-point lead to 10, 58-48. He was hotter in the third quarter with four three-pointers. At one point, he drained three consecutive triples that woke up the silent sellout Garden crowd of 19,812.

“[It was] my first time really feeling the crowd. It was definitely something I take in for sure, but hopefully, we can come out next time with the [win],” Grimes said.

The rookie’s explosion was not enough to lift the undermanned Knicks, who fell to their sixth loss in the last seven games and moved three games below .500. But for what it’s worth, it was a positive development for the organization, which had more than their fair share of misses in the draft and questionable player development program in the past.

“Well, it could [impact his minutes]. It starts with practicing well, which I see every day,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said of Grimes. “He comes back every night, comes in early every day, works extremely hard, very good in practice.”

“So we were confident when he got his opportunity that he would play well, which he did. One game doesn’t make a huge difference, but it’s a very positive step because of the way he approaches things. He’s a great competitor. It’s important to him. He studies. He’s prepared himself extremely well.”

Grimes credited his father for advising him to stay in phenomenal shape, Thibodeau for always preaching the ‘stay ready, next man up mentality,’ and assistant coach Darren Erman for their daily workout.

READ: How Quentin Grimes became a quintessential Thibs guy

Despite only playing 39 minutes in 10 of the Knicks’ first 26 games, Grimes kept himself in tip-top shape by logging in two to three 10 rounds of running around the court at the end of his nightly shooting routine. He asked the coaches to record his running time during the pre-conditioning test as his base and motivation. Sometimes, he adds two more minutes on the clock and runs as fast as he can around their Tarrytown practice facility. He does extra lifting in the weight room and takes good care of his body to prepare for moments like Sunday.

“I can’t be ready to be able to play only 12 minutes,” Grimes said.

Grimes ended up playing a game-high 40 minutes in his first career start and filled the stats sheet with his defensive grit and shot-making. He made 9 of 17 overall and went 7 for 13 beyond the arc. He added three rebounds, three assists, and three steals, with the five turnovers the only blemish, aside from the loss, to his sterling performance.

With Barrett expected to miss at least 10 days unless he yields two negative PCR test results from samples collected at least 24 hours apart, Grimes has a real shot at going on a nice run.

If Grimes keeps up this solid play, that could push Thibodeau to figure out minutes for him once the team returns to full strength.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

How Knicks’ Quentin Grimes plans to make an impact off the bench

quentin grimes, knicks

The New York Knicks have built an extremely deep roster with talent at every position, but there aren’t enough minutes to go around for everybody. When it comes to the rookies, Miles McBride and Quentin Grimes, getting on the court, this upcoming season will likely be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be prepared.

Both rookies have been working diligently to improve and adapt to the NBA with the season just a week away. Ranging from their dominant performances in the Summer League to solid contributions during preseason games, the front office must be excited about their young talent and the growth they’ve experienced in just a short time.

In the most recent preseason game against the Washington Wizards, McBride spent just three minutes on the floor, picking up one assist. Grimes, on the other hand, was on the floor for just two minutes, hitting two three-point shots and totaling six points. Grimes commented on being prepared and ready to come in the game at any moment.

“You have to be ready to come in and knock down shots,’’ Grimes said, via the NY Post. “It’s definitely an adjustment — my first time ever coming off the bench or even sitting the first 46 minutes. You got to be locked in and watching the whole game. You can’t worry about if your number’s not called.’’

Grimes mentioned that this is his first time ever coming off the bench rather than being a regular starter. It will be a good experience for him to learn from the veterans and watch before making a legitimate impact. He already has solid defensive attributes, but gaining confidence against professionals will contribute to his preparation.

Luckily, he has a disciplinary coach to help him refine his talents and take his game to the next level, where he can produce when called upon.

“Thibs is tough but it’s different in college,’’ Grimes said. “Sampson can run us into the ground because you only play 30 games. But Thibs is tough, one of the tougher coaches I’ve had. But I like it a lot because he gives you freedom on the court as well. So I definitely like playing for him.’’

Thibodeau has only provided positive reviews of both McBride and Grimes since being drafted several months ago. Clearly, they have left a positive impression during preseason games, but both also dominated during Summer League play.

Grimes averaged 32.8 minutes over six games this summer, posting 15.3 points on 41.6% shooting from the field and 40.7% shooting from three-point range. He also picked up 6.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

“Everything,’’ Thibodeau said. “He and Miles, they are going to be good players. It started in the summer league, fall workout and then training camp. When it comes to get in there, get the job done. That’s what I love about both guys. Quentin went in, Miles went in right at the end of the game. Both of them played really well.”

Based on Quentin’s development so far, I would anticipate him earning a few garbage-time minutes during the earlier portions of the season. Once fatigue starts to settle in, and injuries ultimately take hold, Grimes will be relied on more frequently, but he can use this time on the bench to watch and learn some of his more experienced teammates.

Grading the Knicks’ NBA 2K22 Ratings: Are they accurate?

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With the release of NBA 2K22 last Friday, we finally have our first look at the 2021-22 New York Knicks roster in 2K. This also means that Miles McBride and Quentin Grimes are playable for the first time ever. Let’s dive into these ratings and see if 2K got it right.

The Ratings

Julius Randle, 87

Can’t really complain about this one. Coming off the best season of his career where he won Most Improved Player(MIP), Randle has earned his place among the top ratings in the Eastern Conference. He should probably be at an 88 or an 89, but his performance in last year’s playoffs definitely played a factor in this year’s rating.

Grade: B

RJ Barrett, 83

This one was really surprising. Not because of how he isn’t higher, but because 2K finally decided to show RJ some respect. 83 is honestly a really great jumping-off point this upcoming season for the 21-year-old. The rating isn’t too low or too high, it’s perfect.

Grade: A

Kemba Walker, 83

Unsurprisingly, this is the lowest rating Walker has had since NBA 2K16. The 5-time All-Star had one of the worst seasons of his career last year and looks to bounce back on his hometown team. His dynamic scoring and playmaking abilities could transform the Knicks’ offense, leading to a ratings boost down the line. However, whether it be from his knee issues or just a regression of his skills, there is also a chance 83 isn’t the lowest we see his rating throughout the year.

Grade: A-

Derrick Rose, 83

After a terrific playoff series against the Hawks last season, D-Rose earned this 83 rating. Although he’s tied for the 2nd highest rating on the team, the former MVP will be coming off the bench this season. Look for him to make a real run at 6th Man of the Year and for this rating to stay pretty much the same all season.

Grade: A

Mitchell Robinson, 80

There’s no question about it: When the 7’0 Robinson is healthy, there are not many other players in the league who can match his level of athleticism and energy. However, he’s coming off multiple injuries, the latter of which saw him miss the final 26 games of the regular season, including the series against the Hawks. If he’s able to stay healthy, there’s little-to-no chance that this rating stays the same. For now, it does make sense after not playing half of last season.

Grade: B+

Evan Fournier, 79

This is the first one that’s way off. 2k has had a tendency in the past to underrate guards/wings that can score in a multitude of ways. Any guard they perceive to not be able to defend well and not have playmaking abilities will have a hard time getting a rating over 80, especially if they play for the Knicks. This one just doesn’t make sense, though. It could be due to the fact that the devs may have been taking his stats with Boston into account too much. Before his trade to the Celtics, Fournier was putting up almost 20 PPG in only 30 minutes per game. Fournier is at least an 82, maybe even an 83. The intangibles he brings on offense, including his shooting and finishing skills, are better than any other 79 in the game. This rating isn’t accurate at all.

Grade: F

Immanuel Quickley, 78

As one of the biggest steals in the 2020 NBA Draft, Quickley improved his rating from a 71 last year all the way up to a 79 by the end of the year. This is why this rating doesn’t really do it for me. To drop down a point after an entire offseason doesn’t make much sense. We’ll see how it unfolds for the second year from Kentucky, but there’s little doubt that he improves enough to get this rating over 80 by the playoffs.

Side note, Quickley is REALLY good at NBA2K.

Grade: C

Nerlens Noel, 78

As the defensive anchor of the Knicks throughout the final stretch of last season that culminated in the team making the playoffs for the first time in 8 years, Noel proved that he wasn’t your average backup center. Defensively, Noel is an incredibly reliable option off the bench. However, his offensive woes will always hamper any rating he’ll ever get from 2K.

Grade: A-

Obi Toppin, 76

If it weren’t for the competency and confidence shown by Obi Toppin at the end of the season last year, there’s a chance he’s nowhere near the 76 that he finds himself right now. The potential is clearly there, but will he find the ability to become more offensively dynamic? Only time will tell. But until we see him take a big leap, the rating he currently holds will stay the same.

The Rest:

Taj Gibson, 76

Kevin Knox, 72

Quentin Grimes, 71

Luca Vildoza, 71

Dwayne Bacon, 71

Miles McBride, 70

Overall, the Knicks have a team rating of 83, which is the highest rating they’ve had since NBA 2K14.

Knicks: How Quentin Grimes became a quintessential Thibs guy

quentim grimes, tom thibodeau, kelvin sampson

More than his outstanding three-point shooting, the biggest pull for the New York Knicks to gravitate towards Quentin Grimes in the first round of the NBA Draft was his impact on winning.

“That’s what we mostly talked about in my conversations with the Knicks and their scouts,” Kelvin Sampson, the University of Houston Cougars head coach, told Empire Sports Media on the phone.

“That’s the thing that they thought they liked most about Quentin as it relates to Thibs’ (Tom Thibodeau’s) culture. There’s a lot of similarities to the Knicks culture as far as what Thibs believes in and what we believe in here. That had a lot to do in them drafting Quentin.”

Grimes already knew he would become a Knick after the team executed a pair of trades during an eventful NBA Draft Night. Before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Grimes’ name, his camp was already excited in anticipation of the announcement.

As the Knicks Draft night plan unfolded, Sampson was on the phone with the team’s general manager Scott Perry, his long-time friend.

“I just remember Scott was asking me questions and telling me what their plan was. That was prior to the 25th pick. And they were really hoping he would be there at 25. They were worried that somebody was gonna take him before them. I think a lot of those moves (trades) were built around drafting Quentin at 25,” Sampson revealed.

“Scott Perry is a professional organizational guy. He knows what he’s doing. They had a plan going in. And they executed it flawlessly.”

The Knicks kicked the can further down the road when they traded their 19th pick to Charlotte for a future first-rounder. With the belief that Grimes would still be on board in the mid-20s, they swapped picks with the Los Angeles Clippers (21st for 25th) to net an additional future second-round selection and save some salary cap space.

So after his hometown team, Houston Rockets, selected Josh Christopher with the 24th pick, the mood at Grimes’ Draft party lit up and was ready to explode.

“When their (Knicks) pick came up, we knew that he was gonna be the pick,” Sampson said, recalling that memorable night. “But you know, you want to hear your name called. You don’t want to react prior to. Quentin just broke down. He was emotional. Because of all the hard work he and his family put into that moment. You just sit back, and I was just so happy for Quentin and his family because he earned that.”

Grimes strongly believed it was his destiny to become a Knick. His perspective changed over the last two years after his initial goal of becoming a lottery pick didn’t pan out. His Houston homecoming had a lot to do with it after a disappointing freshman season with the Kansas Jayhawks.

“I feel like I was picked in the perfect spot. I feel like some people might say I was picked too low or picked too high, something like that. But that’s why I got picked in the right situation,” Grimes said during his introductory press conference. “That’s why going to New York is going to be a match made in heaven.”

Thibodeau and the Knicks front office, led by team president Leon Rose, have created an environment in New York that made players fall in love with the process of getting better by making them accountable.

Grimes went through the same process in his two-year stint with the Cougars that rejuvenated his once flailing basketball career.

“I didn’t think Quentin had hit rock bottom yet when he arrived in our program,” Sampson said.

Grimes, the no. 8 recruit in his class, was a projected lottery pick before he went to Kansas. But things didn’t go according to plan, and his stock plummeted.

During his college debut, Grimes had a spectacular shooting display with 21 points on 6-of-10 three-pointers against Michigan State. But what followed next was a season of disappointment. His offense became erratic. He could only put up single-digit scoring in 17 of his next 35 games and missed 23 of his next 28 three-point attempts. He wound up with an 8.4-point average on a 38/34/60 shooting split that dimmed his prospect of getting drafted in the first round.

“Sometimes you had to fall even further before you can go back up,” Sampson said.

When Grimes couldn’t get a first-round guarantee, he decided to return to college, but he found out that his spot at Kansas was already filled up.

That’s when Sampson scooped him up as the Cougars were looking to replace Armoni Brooks, their best three-point shooter, who decided to go pro.

Marshall Grimes, Quentin’s father, reached out to Alvin Brooks, the Cougars associate head coach at that time.

“[Quentin] is a Houston kid. He was looking for a fresh start somewhere else. We didn’t recruit him out of high school as he narrowed his list down (to the blue blood schools) very early in the process,” Sampson said. “But this time around, his family, the familiarity of Houston and the success our program was having and also the reputation of our staff has in developing guards helped us.”

In a lot of ways, Sampson is very similar to Thibodeau. Both are hard-nosed coaches. Their teams love to defend. But the most striking similarity is both coaches benefited from a coaching sabbatical that allowed them to take a step back and see the current trends that made them better coaches upon their return.

Thibodeau visited many NBA teams in between his coaching stops from Chicago to Minnesota and New York. He learned how things are being done differently.

Sampson also had the same reckoning when he was forced out of his coaching post at Indiana University in 2008 due to recruitment violations.

Sampson revitalized his coaching career during his five-year show-cause penalty with an advisory role to his friend Gregg Popovich. At San Antonio, he saw firsthand how Tony Parker enjoyed freedom in running the Spurs’ offense. He also learned various offensive schemes as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets.

When he was eligible to return to NCAA, the Cougars hired him to rehabilitate their program.

Sampson returned to NCAA a changed man. His tough defensive philosophies were still there, but his deliberate style of offense — a trademark over three decades of coaching with Montana Tech, Washington State, Oklahoma, and Indiana — was replaced by the pace and space schemes and gave freedom to his guards as much as the NBA coaches do.

Sampson led the Cougars to the first round of the NIT twice during his first three seasons, followed by a Round of 32 appearance that snapped a seven-year NCAA drought. The next year, the Kentucky Wildcats needed a late Tyler Herro three-pointer to fend off the Cougars in the Sweet 16.

Sampson resurrected Houston’s basketball program that hasn’t been relevant since the Slamma Jamma era.

Their recent success under Sampson factored heavily in Grimes’ decision. As a sweetener, the veteran coach got a ringing endorsement from former NBA MVP James Harden who played with Grimes in a pickup game in Arizona during the pre-Draft process. 

Harden and Sampson forged a good relationship during their time with the Rockets. The former Rockets star texted Sampson right after the pickup game with a glowing review of Grimes.

“He told me he thought Quentin was a really good player, which we already knew. We were already recruiting him. I think James endorsed me heavily to him [as a players’ coach]. I’m sure Quentin appreciated what James said,” Sampson said.

Sampson knew he had a rough diamond in Grimes. So he worked on rounding up the edges. In his mind, Grimes’ case was psychological more than anything else.

“Quentin had to do certain things. Coming out of high school, his whole game revolved around offense,” Sampson said.

They started to work on his rebounding. There was a rebounding drill specifically made for Grimes. Sampson would put a cover on the ring, and Grimes was the only one allowed to get the rebound. So every time his teammates shoot the ball, Grimes had to fight the whole team to grab the rebound.

Under Sampson, Grimes learned to be tough and competitive. Defense became a priority. The offense came only second. But the freedom on offense allowed Grimes to flourish and become a consistent shooter.

“Once he learned how to do those things, that’s when I thought his game had started coming around. Psychologically, the challenge there was getting his confidence up. Getting him to believe in things,” Sampson said.

“I think we do a great job in our program of creating adversity, whether it is through hard work or through my ability to get kids to places where they will push themselves. I think Quentin had to learn those.”

Grimes regained his confidence through hard work and preparation. An ethos that Thibodeau also preaches to his teams.

It was not by accident that Grimes’ numbers began to shoot up. His playing time from Kansas remained the same in his first year in Houston, but he put up better numbers across the board.

The Cougars were bound for another NCAA tournament with Grimes on board until the pandemic scratched the tournament.

“We could really see progress during his sophomore year,” Sampson said. “I think Quentin was excited about that. It’s why he didn’t put his name in the [NBA] draft after his sophomore year because he realized he still had more work to do. And good for Quentin. A lot of kids would hurry to get into the pros, and they’re not ready. Quentin wasn’t ready.”

Sampson thought another year with them would be better than Grimes ending up as a late second-round selection and getting relegated to the G League.

“Psychologically, he still had to be a better rebounder, a better on-ball defender and learn how to win and impact winning. Those are all things that are part of the culture we have. Quentin bought into our culture.” Sampson said.

Grimes continued his upward trajectory in his junior year, posting career-best numbers — 17.8 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from deep on 5.9 attempts — leading the Cougars to the NCAA Final Four for the first time since 1984.

He also posted his best defensive rating per 100 possessions at 90.1, a 15-point jump from his freshman year.

Grimes made it personal to defend the opposing team’s best player. He was a big part of why the Cougars were the second-best defensive team in the NCAA last season, allowing only 58.2 points per game behind Loyola Chicago’s 56.1-point average.

“He really bought in (to our culture). He’s such a great kid. I thoroughly enjoyed coaching him. To see his progress — almost every game we played this year, he was the best player on the floor — and his confidence took off. His belief in winning grew each game,” Sampson said.

Grimes became the first Cougar to be drafted in the first round since Cadillac Anderson went 23rd in 1987.

In Grimes, the Knicks got a ready-made rookie who can contribute from day one but still has so much room for growth. His appetite for learning is insatiable.

The rookie swingman started his Knicks career poorly, just like the way he did in college. After drilling his first shot — a three-pointer — in the NBA Summer League, he would only hit four of his next 21 attempts from long distance.

But even if his shots were not falling, Grimes didn’t stop playing.

He rebounded the ball, made plays for his teammates, and played resolute defense. 

Sampson was not worried, but still, he sent a text of encouragement to his former star.

“He started out like a rookie,” Sampson said. “I’m sure there were some anxiety and nerves. He was playing with a shoot-first point guard, whereas he played with a pass-first point guard in college. So he’s gonna have to be able to adjust with different styles and players, knowing that he’s not gonna be the first option. It took him a game or two to adjust, but once he did, you saw how good he is.”

Grimes finished the Summer League on a bright note. His final numbers were solid: 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists with nearly a steal and a block per game.

Grimes shrugged off his poor shooting start and ended up with a staggering 41-percent clip on nine three-point attempts.

In a loaded Knicks team, it will be hard to replicate those numbers in the regular season. Minutes would be hard to come by for rookies. But Sampson believes Grimes can earn his way into the rotation.

“He’s a smart kid,” Sampson said. “He knew that he’s not gonna be the first option. But even if you already know that, it will take some time to adjust.”

“He’s gonna be filling in a role. If you think about the NBA, everybody is a role player. For the best guys on that team, that’s their role. For the guys who take the most shots, that’s their role. So Quentin will settle into a role. Once he does, he has to accept it. Be the best that he can be at it. Each year, try to get better. That’s the key,” Sampson added.

Grimes’ initial role could be a 3-and-D spark off the bench when the veterans ahead of him, such as Alec Burks, Evan Fournier, and RJ Barrett, go down with an injury or having off nights. But during his introductory presser, Grimes was adamant that he’s more than just a 3-and-D guy.

Sampson agrees. 

“If you watch [Quentin] play with the Knicks this summer and with us and also at the [Draft] Combine in Chicago, he showed that he could make plays. He is an outstanding defender and a three-point shooter. But he also can put the ball on the floor and create,” Sampson said.

“But as a rookie, he’s just gonna go get in and sacrifice and figure out what coach Thibs wants him to do and do that. If he wants him to be a and 3-and-D guy, then be that guy. If they give you the freedom to do some other things, then make sure you’re ready to do that.”

Sampson, like Thibodeau, has built a reputation as a winner everywhere he goes. Grimes has been wired like a Thibs’ guy. So there’s no doubt in Sampson’s mind that Thibodeau will be able to find a role for Grimes.

“The Knicks organization knows how to win,” Sampson said. “Thibs has been doing that longer than anybody that has been commenting or writing or talking. He knows what he’s doing. He’ll put Quentin in the best position, and more importantly, their team to succeed.”

The Knicks identified what Thibodeau wanted and needed to succeed. Their thorough scouting and sleuthing led them to Grimes, an underrated talent and a high-character guy who will put in the work and put winning above all else.

“Good players, at some point, have to embrace winning over statistics. If all you care about is statistics, then you’re not about winning. Winning is far more important than putting up stats,” Sampson said. “Coaches want to see how much you impact winning, not how many points you can score.”

That is what the Knicks saw in Grimes. The former five-star prospect overcame adversity and repaired his shattered confidence once he embraced the Cougars’ culture and learned to impact winning. Sampson unlocked his true gifts and, in the process, molded him to become a quintessential Thibs guy.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

How can Knicks’ rookie Quentin Grimes make any impact during his rookie season?

quentin grimes, knicks

New York Knicks rookie guard Quentin Grimes will have a tough time getting on the floor this upcoming season, with players like RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and Alec Burks ahead of him on the depth chart. However, Grimes is exactly the type of player that head coach Tom Thibodeau likes to deploy. He’s a defensive maestro with solid spot shooting who can connect from range frequently.

Grimes impressed during the NBA Combine, which catapulted his draft stock into the first round. Last season with the University of Houston, Grimes averaged 17.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals, and shot 40.3% from three-point range. At 6’5″ and 210-pounds, Grimes continuously showed growth throughout the summer, finishing the Summer League in solid form.

Houston coach, Kelvin Sampson, is a defensive-centric strategist, which is why Thibodeau fell in love with Grimes as a potential first-round selection. Despite the team having their eyes on Chris Duarte out of Oregon, Grimes fits a similar mold with the ability to create shots for himself but also play adequate defense in his rookie season.

During Summer League play, Grimes average 32.8 minutes per game over six contests. He posted 15.3 points, shooting 41.6% from the field and 40% from three-point range, showcasing his shooting prowess and success rate. He also contributed 3.0 assists, and 6.3 rebounds to go with 0.5 steals.

Overall, Grimes is breaking out of the mold the coins him a 3-and-D player. He’s capable of playing the pick-and-roll and making plays for himself and others, which provides him with an immediate impact at the NBA level. He prides himself on defense, which will force Thibodeau to get him on the floor on occasion.

Ultimately, injuries show up during a tough 82 game schedule, so Grimes will have to play solid minutes at some point, but he can provide a weapon off the bench in specific scenarios. For example, if the Knicks have a double-digit lead and are looking to break away even further, he’s a solid player to call upon to offer immediate offense while continuing his development.

I wouldn’t expect to see Grimes on the floor during high-intensity moments, but if he continues to perform well and translate his shooting abilities to game day, there’s no doubt he will make an impact.

As a fantastic perimeter defender with active hands in the passing lanes, he could quickly develop during his rookie season, which is what the Knicks are hoping for despite signing Burks to a three-year deal and expecting Quickley to take a step forward in his growth.

Quentin is the type of player that desperately needs live-action to gain ground, and I don’t think Thibodeau will refrain from playing him if he feels he can contribute more than a veteran. Ultimately, the Houston product can be a solid role player, while he will be fighting hard for minutes during his rookie campaign, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make an impact one way or another off the bench.