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

No Shortcuts: Ex-Knick Pete Mickeal owes legendary Euroleague career to Tom Thibodeau

Knicks, rom thibodeau, Pete mickeal

Pete Mickeal was dejected. Even after a solid showing in the NBA Shaw Summer Pro League in Boston, Mickeal still couldn’t make the cut.

Jeff Van Gundy, then New York Knicks head coach, told him to wait for his turn. The Knicks, coming off an NBA Finals appearance in the previous season, were loaded at the wings with Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston, and Glen Rice.

Mickeal, an All-American honorable mention in his senior year, already felt embarrassed when he ended up as the last pick of the 2000 NBA Draft after a productive two-year stint with the Cincinnati Bearcats, one of the best teams in the country at that time.

The Dallas Mavericks used the 58th pick on him but quickly shipped him to New York along with Erick Strickland for John Wallace and Donnell Harvey.

So the news of being relegated to the reserve list was another dampener.

It was Tom Thibodeau, a Van Gundy assistant at that time, who kept his spirits up.

“I was disappointed, and Thibs was always positive, and he said, ‘Listen, man! Just keep working.’ And I would work with Thibs that year,” Mickeal told Empire Sports Media on the phone.

Thibodeau and Mickeal forged a good relationship as they were inseparable that year. Mickeal became Thibodeau’s project. They hit the weight room early in the morning before other Knicks players showed up in their old practice facility in SUNY-Purchase.

“Then he takes me to the court and worked me out hard. So once practice comes, I’m really, really ready to go. And after the two-hour practice, Thibs will work me out again. He was always positive. He said, ‘Keep the right mentality. Don’t worry about not playing. Just work your ass off.’ That’s all I remember him saying,” Mickeal recalled.

That laid the groundwork for Mickeal to flourish in a legendary career overseas. His NBA career never took off, but thanks to another Summer League stint under Thibodeau, other doors opened for him.

“You always take a little piece of every coach you had during your career, and you take that mentality as a player, so I was fortunate to have a coach like Thibs,” Mickeal said. “I played for Thibs in the Summer League for two years. Those games helped me get attention in Europe. I was averaging 18 pts per game, and Thibs played me for 30-35 mins per game. So I had a chance to show what I can really do.”

Mickeal spent 15 years overseas playing in the Philippines, Korea, Greece, Spain, and Argentina, where at the tail end of his career, he faced a young Luca Vildoza.

“I knew Vildoza was good. I know his agent very well. And he’s played for the coach that’s most similar to Thibs in Europe. His name is Dusko Ivanovic,” Mickeal said.

Ivanovic, a multi-titled Euroleague, and Liga ACB champion coach, was Vildoza’s mentor in Baskonia.

“He and Thibs have the same mentality when it comes to coaching,” Mickael said. “They are coaches who you have to play defense, or you won’t play. So (Vildoza) played for tough coaches. He can play. If he’s healthy and he gets a chance, let’s see what happens.”

Mickeal won a dozen Liga ACB crowns and a Euroleague title, making him the winningest American player in Europe.

When his legendary overseas career was over, Thibodeau again gave him the opportunity to return to the NBA.

Mickeal reached out to Thibodeau, the head coach and Minnesota Timberwolves team president at that time.

“Right now, we don’t have a coaching opening, but we got something that you might like it better,” Mickeal said, recalling his conversation with Thibodeau. “It turned out to be true. I love being in the front office. I love scouting.”

It was like 2000 all over again, albeit the coaching and the development were off the court. Mickeal absorbed everything like a sponge as he got his feet wet into the NBA front office.

“Working for Thibs is great being your first job coming out of playing. It will really teach you the work ethic you need to be a great scout. Because the type of work you do when Thibs is your boss is tripled compared to any other team,” Mickeal said.

His familiarity with Euroleague players and NBA players playing overseas helped him seal the deal. The job taught him to become innovative and go the extra mile to get the intel on the players. He scouted not only in Europe but also players in the NBA, G League, and even in Asia. He was in meetings with coaches and other front office staff that made him appreciate how rosters are constructed in the NBA.

Nerlens Noel was one of the players he scouted extensively when the beanpole center was still playing in Oklahoma City Thunder. The former lottery pick has been on Thibodeau’s radar as far back as 2018. So he was not surprised the Knicks targeted Noel last summer.

“Obviously, I’ve been in the front office, so I can appreciate why teams are put together the way they are, like Nerlens Noel, for example. When I scouted him when he was with OKC, I’ve always liked him. I’ve always thought he’s a really good backup center,” Mickeal said.

“It’s very difficult to find a backup center that can give you rebounds and points every game and can switch screens who can move his feet well on the perimeter. It isn’t easy with all the switching the NBA does. And his body type fits today’s NBA. He’s got the long, slender body type, but he’s got a huge wingspan. So that really helps in deflection and playing straight-up defense with your hands in the air, showing your length. That’s difficult to find in the NBA — a mobile backup center,” Mickeal said. “I thought they did a great job in finding a guy like that. And the contract they got him for, I thought that was great.”

After Noel’s solid play last season, the Knicks locked him up to a $32 million, three-year contract this summer, with the last year as a club option making it a team-friendly deal.

Noel’s scouting report was just one of the hundreds Thibodeau received each week when Mickeal was scouting for the Timberwolves.

“We write all these (scouting) reports each game, and a hundred reports are coming in each week, and the guys in the office told me that I make this list, and Thibs read every single report every week. And I was like, okay, he’s the coach, and he’s reading all these reports? That story sums him up,” Mickeal said.

”He reads the reports every scout has written, and he was also in the meetings that I was in, and he’s coaching at the same time. That’s a level of commitment that’s unearthly. It’s not normal. But that’s a great tribute to him because everything he got in his career was through hard work.”

Thibodeau has made a career transforming losing teams into playoff contenders. He made solid rotation pieces out of fringe players. He developed All-Stars and All-NBA players at every stop. Derrick Rose became the league’s youngest MVP under his helm and resurrected his career in Minnesota.

“Thibs’ player development is underrated. They’re not giving him the credit he deserves. They always say Thibs plays his guys too many minutes,” Mickeal said. “But the truth is he’s developing players.”

Mickeal himself largely benefited from Thibodeau’s developmental coaching on and off the court. He parlayed Thibodeau’s teachings into a successful overseas career and later on as a scout and now as a sports agent.

After two years with the Timberwolves, Mickeal moved on to scout for the Washington Wizards until he decided not to return last year and bet on himself. He put up the Miami-based Mickeal Sports Group, a sports agency specializing in sending American players to Euroleague and identifying young NBA prospects around Europe.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to get into the sports agent business,” Mickael said.

Mickeal prepared himself for his post-playing career by getting directly involved in all negotiations of his playing contracts from 2008 until he retired. While he thought coaching would have been great, he was grateful Thibodeau steered him towards the front office, which equipped him with the additional skill set and network necessary to set up his dream sports agency.

“Thibs gave me that opportunity to start with. Then I branched out from there. It worked out really well. It’s a really good business which I want to do for the rest of my career. I work with a lot of smart, analytics people. We got a marketing firm behind me, and we’ve hired some really, really experienced agents. After one year, it’s already exceeded expectations,” Mickeal said.

Mickeal is a Thibodeau lifer who, unlike the Derrick Roses, Jimmy Butlers, Taj Gibsons, never found success in the NBA. But he’s earned a seat at Thibodeau’s table because of his motto: being the hardest working guy in the room.

“I didn’t have long experience with him like other players have, but the short time that I’ve been with him, I can honestly say he doesn’t take shortcuts. If you work the way he works, he’ll give you the respect,” Mickeal said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks have one of the toughest schedules according to Positive Residual

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The odds are stacked again against the New York Knicks.

The Knicks have the 19th best odds overall and the 11th best odds in the East to make the playoffs at -135, according to DraftKing Sportsbook.

Crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets are an odds-on favorite to make the playoffs at -20000, followed by reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks (-8000) and the revamped Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns, tied at -3500.

Despite the Knicks retaining much of their core that finished as fourth seed last season and upgrading their backcourt with Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, teams that didn’t make the playoffs were listed as favorites above them. 

Toronto Raptors (-300), Charlotte Hornets (-215), Indiana Pacers (-170), and Chicago Bulls (-155) have better odds to make the playoffs and the play-in tournament.

It doesn’t help that the Knicks have one of the toughest schedules in the upcoming season. They have the seventh toughest schedule based on Positive Residual’s metrics.

The Los Angeles-based sports analytics service provider said on their website that they measure the strength of schedule (SOS) by estimating how difficult a game or slate of games is based on the opponent’s quality, which is often defined by win percentage, net rating, or points above or below average and other variables such as home team strength, away team strength, rest and altitude at which home team plays. 

Positive Residual SOS chart

The Knicks’ schedule will feature 11 back-to-back games where Walker’s balky knee will be a question mark and two back-breaking road trips in February (5-game road swing in West Coast against playoff contenders) and March (7-game road trip: 5 in West Coast sandwiched by road games in Philadelphia and Brooklyn). But the Knicks front office has prioritized depth to mitigate these factors.

This could be arguably the most stacked team Tom Thibodeau will handle since the MVP Derrick Rose-led 2011 Chicago Bulls team he guided to 62-20 en route to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Thibodeau’s projected starting five this season will feature Walker and Fournier at the backcourt and Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson in the frontcourt with a deep bench led by Rose, who should be an early favorite to win Sixth Man of the Year, and veteran Alec Burks.

Knicks Projected Depth Chart:

PG Walker, Rose, Quickley, McBride

SG Fournier, Burks, Quickley, Grimes, Vildoza/Bacon

SF Barrett, Burks, Knox

PF Randle, Toppin, Knox, Gibson

C Robinson, Noel, Gibson

The Knicks were never given a chance last season to enter the playoffs, but they defied the 22.5 win odds in the pandemic-condensed 72-game schedule and finished at 41-31. They are pegged as a 42.5-win team this year, with the NBA returning to the regular 82-game schedule.

But with a roster that deep and with Thibodeau, a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, at the helm, it’s hard to bet against the Knicks.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Top 5 storylines for Knicks preseason games

To some, it’s just the preseason games. But don’t tell that to the New York Knicks fans who will troop to the Garden and cheer out for their team after spending most of last season cheering from their couch.

The preseason games are not lacking in drama as there are many storylines to be unpacked when the retooled Knicks plunge back into action after a surprising playoff run and a solid offseason.

The Knicks will play four preseason games, three at the Garden in what is expected to be a full capacity crowd in one of the most anticipated seasons in franchise history in a long while.

Knicks Preseason Schedule:

Pacers @ Knicks Oct. 5, 7:30 pm

Knicks @ Wizards Oct. 9, 7:00 pm

Pistons @ Knicks Oct. 13, 7:30 pm

Wizards @ Knicks Oct. 15, 7:30 pm

Let’s take a look at the five most intriguing storylines of the Knicks’ preseason.

First look at reloaded backcourt

Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier will have their Garden debut as a Knick in their preseason opener.

Walker and Fournier arrived with much fanfare and are viewed as upgrades over former starters Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock.

It will be interesting to see how Tom Thibodeau will manage Walker, Derrick Rose, and Immanuel Quickley’s minutes.

The One That Got Away

The Knicks reportedly tried to trade up for Oregon star Chris Duarte in the draft. And the Knicks will have the chance to size up the one prospect that got away right in their preseason opener.

Actually, it will be Duarte’s second game against the Knicks, but it will be his first against their entire lineup. Duarte made quite an impression in his Summer League debut in Indiana Pacers’ loss to the Knicks. The 24-year old lived up to his billing as a ready-made 3-and-D player with his solid play on both ends of the court as he came away with a full line: 14 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.

Done with Broadway drama

The Knicks will play two games against the new-look Wizards, who scooped up Spencer Dinwiddie and picked up Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell from the Los Angeles Lakers for Russell Westbrook.

Dinwiddie, who essentially replaces Westbrook, had a love and hate relationship with the Knicks fans and media following his exit from crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets.

A segment of the fan base wanted him to be a Knick before Walker came along. New York Post stirred the pot with a report that he wanted no part of it.

Dinwiddie quickly shut down the report as he moves on from the drama in New York for the much laidback atmosphere in the nation’s capital.

Dinwiddie is happy and content that he got his bag in Washington as Bradley Beal’s new backcourt partner. But there will be no love lost for sure when he plays his first game at the Garden following his Nets stint.

MotorCade at the Garden

The top overall pick Cade Cunningham will make his Garden debut when the Detroit Pistons visit New York on Oct. 13.

Cunningham hit seven triples in what came down as his coming out party in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Thibodeau will definitely map out a defensive game plan against the gifted rookie.

Last chance to catch the bus

The preseason games will be Luca Vildoza’s final test before the Knicks decide on his team’s option for the upcoming season. The team has until the opening night whether to keep the Argentine guard or let him go.

After a month of training with the Knicks player development staff, Vildoza had an underwhelming performance in Argentina’s Olympic quest. He went scoreless in the Summer League before he was shut down due to a foot injury.

Veteran guard Dwayne Bacon, who signed an Exhibit 10 deal, is lurking in the background and remains to be the biggest threat to Vildoza.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Fournier chooses Knicks among other options: They are a very attractive team

You can now scratch the New York Knicks off from the unwanted destination list among NBA players.

Evan Fournier just made the confirmation during an elaborate team introduction Tuesday at The Garden along with Bronx native Kemba Walker.

Fournier arrived at New York via a sign-and-trade deal that netted the Knicks additional draft assets instead of signing straight as a free agent. The deal is reportedly worth $78 million for four years, with the last year a club option.

The Boston Celtics created a large $17.1 million traded player exception. They incentivized the Knicks with two future second-round picks — the top-55 protected 2023 Charlotte’s second-round pick, the worst of Oklahoma/Washington, or the better of Miami/ Dallas, per Boston Globe — to add to their burgeoning draft capital.

The Knicks, along with the Celtics and other teams, were Fournier’s options. But he didn’t need to think twice when the Knicks came with an offer to the table.

“Why? I think it was an easy choice. The Knicks are a very attractive team. They have an incredible coach that every time he coached a team, the team is disciplined. They play hard. And they play together. As a player, you want that,” Fournier said.

The French swingman was in the middle of his country’s Olympic quest when free agency opened. That’s why he was anxious to hammer out a deal as quickly as possible.

“The day we agreed on the deal was the day of the quarterfinals. So I was really talking to my agent, and you know, he’s letting me know what’s basically on the table and what my options are. It was pretty clear to me that New York was gonna be the team for me. It made it easier because I didn’t have to spend much energy so I could just focus on the Olympics,” Fournier said.

He sealed the deal over the phone with the Knicks’ top brass, including coach Tom Thibodeau.

Thibodeau greeted Fournier with a hex over him and his team France.

“As soon as I wrapped up that silver [medal], I have to go to New York so we can talk,” Fournier recalled of their conversation.

As it turned out, Fournier and France settled for the silver medal, losing to the Team USA in the gold medal game. It was Fournier’s first Olympic medal for France, and he relished the experience, saying that playing in high-intensity games makes you better as a player. He added that there’s no better high-intensity game than in a gold medal match against the world’s best basketball players.

Now, Fournier can focus on helping the Knicks improve from their fourth seed and first-round exit last season.

Fournier had admired the Knicks’ playing style under Thibodeau from a distance last season.

“Teams like that are hard to beat because they don’t beat themselves. You really have to play well to beat them. Looking at a team like that, it’s clear that they have togetherness. They practice well. Because throughout the season, they keep getting better and better. As a player, that’s exciting because you want to be part of a group that works and wants to win,” Fournier said.

Fournier believes it will be an easy transition for him to play for Thibodeau as he enjoyed his best years under Steve Clifford, a former Knicks assistant and Thibodeau’s close friend, in Orlando. He prides himself on being a grinder and a hard worker, a trait that made him among the favorite players Clifford has coached.

“I played for coach [Steve] Clifford for three years, and I think, in a lot of ways, they were very similar. I know I will enjoy working with [Thibodeau]. And I mean, it’s New York, it’s the Madison Square Garden. The team is getting better and better. It’s a great opportunity. You probably don’t know that, but the French press knows I’ve been telling them for years that I always wanted to play for the Knicks. Now, it became a reality,” he said.

A dream come true for Fournier and the Knicks, who have long desired to be wanted.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Obi Toppin says Knicks rookies are showing why they should play next season

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The New York Knicks have upgraded their roster via free agency while maintaining their depth to build on the momentum of their first playoff appearance since 2013.

The Knicks went into the NBA Summer League with a primary focus on Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley’s development as leaders, and they are getting more than what they bargained.

Toppin and Quickley have been balling out in their first NBA Summer League after the event was scratched last year due to the pandemic. The Knicks’ sophomores have been included in The Athletic’s NBA Draft analyst Sam Vecenie’s ‘Too Good for Summer League Team,’ while their rookies have shown plenty of promise.

“It’s been great being out there with those guys, leading those guys, and pushing those guys. Everybody on that team has a heart and loves the hustle. When you’re playing with a bunch of dogs, then your team is fun,” Toppin said after the Knicks chalked up their third win in five Summer League games last Saturday.

In a true Tom Thibodeau fashion, Toppin (36.5 minutes) and Quickley (34.5 minutes) lead the NBA Summer League in playing time. Knicks Summer League coach Daisuke “Dice” Yoshimoto has referred to them as leaders of this team.

Toppin has been productive, averaging 23.0 points (no. 4 in scoring), 8.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks while shooting 46 percent from the floor and making 2.2 3s per game.

“Obi put in a lot of time over the summer. And it showed. He’s gonna continue to get better, put time in, and the result will gonna take care of itself,” Yoshimoto said. “This is his chance to showcase who he is. He’s gonna continue to put his time in, work hard, and build the right habits.”

The biggest takeaway here is Toppin can produce when used right. Toppin was able to show his potential as a rim runner, roll man, and pick and pop big man as opposed to his ill-fitted role last season as a floor-spacing big man just waiting in the corner.

On the other hand, Quickley, despite his shaky shooting (38 percent overall, 25 percent from 3) in Las Vegas, has made great strides as a lead guard with his 8.0 assists ranking third behind traditional point guards — Atlanta rookie Sharife Cooper (9.0) and Boston’s sophomore Payton Pritchard (8.7). Quickley also averages 21.8 points (no. 7) to go with 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals.

Their rookies Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride, Jericho Sims, and their pick-and-stash Rokas Jokubaitis, who left for Spain, have followed their lead.

“All those guys are doing great. Quick (Quickley) has been doing a great job with Deuce (McBride) and Quentin (Grimes). Jericho (Sims) has been doing a great job listening to all of us and doing his part. Every rookie on [our] team is doing good, and they’re showing Thibs why they should be on the court next season,” Toppin said.

Heeding the advice of Allan Houston and Penny Hardaway, Grimes finally looked like the 3-and-D guy the Knicks have drafted in their last two games, scoring 15 and 28 points, after groping for form in his first three games.

McBride has been stellar running the point in Quickley’s absence (due to a sore groin) against the Cleveland Cavaliers. McBride scored a personal Summer League-best 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting and handed out five assists while playing solid defense (four rebounds, two steals, and one blocked shot).

Through five games, McBride, the 36th pick overall, is averaging 14.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.4 steals with a 50/46/88 shooting split.

Sims has made his first 10 field goals and is leading the Summer League in field goal percentage (88.2 percent) among players who have played at least three games and attempted at least four field goals per game. In four games, Sims has put up 8.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 1.0 blocks.

“They are gonna continue to put their time in and get better. Let’s see where they are at training camp,” Yoshimoto said.

Toppin attributed their great on-court chemistry to the culture they had been building in New York since Thibodeau’s arrival last year.

“I feel like just the brotherhood we’ve built. Everybody on our team is very close. We hang out with each other every single day. And we love to compete. Every time we step on that floor, we give it our 110 percent every game, and we’ve got to continue doing that for the season,” Toppin said.

The Knicks will close out their Summer League play against the Atlanta Hawks at 7 p.m. Monday. Toppin and the Knicks are raring to come out with a bang.

“I think one thing we need to focus on is just lock in defensively — having our best defensive game and just having fun out there,” Toppin said. “So, it’s gonna be our last Summer League game, and we need to make a statement going into the new season.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Roll the Dice: Yoshimoto repays Knicks trust with solid NBA Summer League coaching

It’s not only Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin who are taking leadership lessons this summer for the New York Knicks.

Daisuke “Dice” Yoshimoto, the long-time Tom Thibodeau’s right-hand man, is also taking the crash course in his first big break as a coach.

So far, the boyish-looking, 40-year old assistant coach is making the most out of the opportunity.

After the Knicks groped for form in their opening-day loss to the Toronto Raptors, the team has responded to Yoshimoto’s coaching and won the next two games.

“First of all, I want to thank Leon (Rose), Wes (William Wesley), Scott Perry, and coach Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) for giving me this opportunity to coach this team,” Yoshimoto said after the Knicks’ opening game in the NBA Summer League.

“It’s all about me getting better as well, to keep improving. It’s also a great opportunity for me to showcase what I’ve learned from coach Thibs. I’m biased. I think coach Thibs is the best coach in the league so, I’m very fortunate to be able to learn from him over the course of the years.”

Yoshimoto is just one of the few Asian-Americans coaching in the NBA. Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra remains to be the poster boy as the lone Asian-American head coach. Other assistant coaches around the league with Asian heritage are Portland Trail Blazers’ Jonathan Yim, Los Angeles Clippers/Agua Calientes’ Natalie Nakase. Filipino-American Jimmy Alapag, who led the Philippines to the FIBA World Cup in 2015, is trying to join that exclusive club. Alapag is in his second stint as an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings’ Summer League team.

Like Spoelstra, Yoshimoto climbed the ranks from the film room to an assistant coach. In Knicks’ first summer league under Thibodeau, they rolled the dice with Yoshimoto.

“I think [diversity] is important. At the same time, I’m focused on getting better. I just want to be the best coach that I can be,” Yoshimoto said.

“I’m just fortunate to be able to learn from guys like coach Thibs over the years. I learn from everybody. I started with coach Mike Fratello and Lawrence Frank and coach Thibs for a long time. Also, coach Mike Malone, I had a chance to work for him before in Denver. Two years ago, I had the chance to work in college for coach Tom Crean. Obviously, this is a great opportunity for me to get better.”

Yoshimoto broke into the NBA as an intern for the New Jersey Nets in 2009 after getting his Master’s degree in Education from Fordham in 2008. Before that, he played Division III basketball and received a bachelor’s degree in Sports, Event, and Entertainment Management from Johnson and Wales University.

As an intern with the Nets, Yoshimoto assisted with player development and coded opponents’ games.

Yoshimoto left the Nets after two seasons and joined Mike Fratello as his head video coordinator for the Ukraine national basketball team. He parlayed his 2011 Euro Championships experience into an NBA job. He started as an assistant video coordinator and was later promoted as head video coordinator with the Chicago Bulls, where he forged a good working relationship with Thibodeau.

When the Bulls fired Thibodeau, Yoshimoto transferred to the Denver Nuggets, holding the same position as the head video coordinator. He linked up again with Thibodeau anew in Minnesota and now with the Knicks. In between his Timberwolves and Knicks stints, he worked with Georgia Bulldogs as their director of basketball strategy and video.

Throughout his NBA journey, he learned how to live code games, scout opponents to help create game plans, edit videos for the coaching staff and players, prepare and present games plans, and work with players daily in film reviews and workouts.

As much as Yoshimoto has empowered Quickley and Toppin to lead the Knicks’ Summer League squad, Thibodeau also did the same to him.

After the Knicks lost to the Raptors, he talked with Thibodeau and looked at the film. He came back strong, guiding the Knicks to win the next two games against Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We talk about games and stuff. He always tells me things that we, collectively, need to work on so that’s why my focus is to try to get this team better. My job is to tell him what I see. I think the team has done a great job responding to that,” Yoshimoto said.

Thibodeau values loyalty. He demands it as much as he gives it to anyone who deserves it. Yoshimoto has earned Thibodeau’s trust, and as much as this NBA Summer League coaching job is one of those rewards, it is also the coach’s way of building the team’s culture.

Thibodeau often harped building a team of leaders. He made one out of Julius Randle last season. Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson became leaders in Chicago that Thibodeau now leans on in New York. He wants to do the same with Quickley and Toppin through Yoshimoto. And in the process, developing Yoshimoto, too.

This is the Thibs’ way — a culture of leadership and accountability.

You can sense the humility, often perceived as shyness when the soft-spoken Yoshimoto speaks during the Summer League postgame interviews. As Yoshimoto’s Japanese features are more pronounced, Thibodeau is empowering him to embrace his heritage and break the Asian stereotypes.

“He just tells me to be me, and I’ve got to be comfortable with my own skin. And I’ve got to find my voice, and that’s what I’m doing right now,” Yoshimoto said.

So far, he’s pushing the right buttons and making the proper adjustments. The young Knicks team has responded well to him. He commanded their respect that resulted in their fine play this summer.

Of course, Yoshimoto wanted to win and make a splash in his first coaching break. But the heart and core of these Summer League games aren’t lost on him.

“Obviously, it’s important to have [progress] in terms of the development of players and being able to win some games. There’s a fine line in between, and we have to find that balance where we can do both. We need to keep building the culture,” Yoshimoto said.

So far, so good.

Quickley, Toppin, and some of the Knicks rookie standouts like Miles McBride and Jericho Sims are all basking in the afterglow of their solid NBA Summer League campaign. Yoshimoto is content to be in the background.

“I just focus on what I have to do. I just concentrate on getting this team to play at the highest level they could,” he said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks: Inside Miles McBride’s ‘stay ready’ mentality

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With the game hanging in the balance, Immanuel Quickley attacked the basket but lost his balance. 

Luckily for the New York Knicks, Quickley’s pass, despite getting slightly deflected, went into the hottest hands of the night.

Knicks rookie Miles McBride drilled in his sixth three-pointer just before the shot clock buzzer to give the Knicks a five-point breather, 85-80, with 1:20 left.

Quickley and McBride scored the Knicks’ final 22 points to wrap up their second win in the NBA Summer League — a 91-82 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Nevada.

McBride scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, including 14 in the final quarter, in what should go down as his signature game in this year’s NBA Summer League. He was brilliant on the offensive end — a perfect six for six from deep and 7 of 9 overall while handing out five assists.

“Honestly, it’s just about staying ready so you don’t have to get ready,” McBride told Cassidy Hubbarth after the game. “I mean, the ball is gonna find me. I just have to make open shots. That’s what I do. I’ve trusted (Immanuel) Quickley to make the right reads so I’m just gonna stay ready.”

McBride’s unbridled confidence comes from preparation — a Tom Thibodeau tenet. It’s no wonder why Thibodeau reportedly pushed for him in the NBA Draft.

“Obviously, he’s a very good player. He’s putting a lot of time in the gym and it showed today,” Knicks Summer League coach Dice Yoshimoto said. “You could tell he shot very well in college and he’s gonna continue to put his time in and he’s gonna continue to keep getting better. That’s who he is.”

It’s in McBride’s DNA growing up in a competitive household.

His father, Walter McBride, was a standout at Xavier in the 1980s before playing overseas basketball while his mother, Kim, lettered in tennis at Ohio State. His brother, Trey, played college ball at Northwood and is now playing overseas while his sister, Kristen, plays volleyball in West Virginia.

McBride has been killing it in the Summer League not only from the outside but also from the midrange.

Through three games, McBride is averaging 15.0 points in 26.4 minutes per game. His shooting splits of 63/62/88 have been oustanding.

“He’s gonna continue to shoot the right ones. If he’s open, I keep telling him to shoot it. If not, move it. Make the game simple. And that’s what he did today,” Yoshimoto said.

It looked simple but McBride went through a complex process trying to perfect his craft. It started at home where charity always begins.

“Honestly, my dad played back when there was no three-point line so it’s nothing but midrange. So he’s always been the guy who really taught me, just pass it down to me and my brother. A lot of time in the backyard, you know, until the street lights are coming on. We’re out there in the park, in our backyard just shooting midrange shots,” McBride revealed.

The unseen hours have made McBride confident with his shot. From the backyard, to park, to school, to film room, and the NBA court, McBride always leans on his competitive edge to learn and grow.

“It’s just about taking shots in the flow of the game. In the first game, I kinda rushed a lot of shots. I just went back to watch the film with the coaches and try to understand the game more and just find where the best shots are gonna come from. That’s what I felt I did today,” McBride said.

His shot was also inspired, in part, by his new teammate and future backcourt mentor Kemba Walker.

“He’s a killer from the midrange and I feel like that’s one of the things I’m very good at as well so, I’ve watched a lot of Kemba films,” McBride said.

He was excited when he heard the news of Walker coming home to New York even if that meant less chances for him to earn minutes on the floor in his rookie year.

“I was really excited. I mean, you got to play with guys like Kemba, Julius (Randle), Derrick Rose. Those are the guys I grew up watching. To get to be alongside them is a dream come true,” he said.

While his shot and playmaking had inspired excitement, it’s his defense that he thinks would be his ticket to playing time under Thibodeau.

“This is a league about creating opportunities. I feel like one of my strengths is defense so, that’s the best way I can create opportunities for myself,” McBride said.

McBride was equally impressive on the defensive end against the Lakers. His seven rebounds and one steal didn’t do justice to how he defended well. He picked up opposing guards full court and contested shots.

His competitive fire was lit up by nine-time All-Defensive Team and the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year Gary Payton.

“We’re definitely going through a lot of rookie transition stuff, and Gary Payton was talking like, you know, obviously, he’s a Hall of Famer, he’s the best [guard] defender probably to have ever played in the league. So he was talking line nobody can pick up the full court, so I want to come out here and show him I could do that,” McBride said.

McBride is as good as advertised — the 3-and-D guard prospect that the Knicks were lucky to have stolen in the second round.

In these summer league games, the Knicks have experimented playing him off the ball alongside Quickley, and the proof is in the pudding.

“It starts with his defensive tenacity first. [Deuce] can defend multiple positions. He can play on the ball. He can play off the ball on the defensive end,” Yoshimoto said of the versatile rookie guard.

But his path to rotation minutes in the regular season is unclear.

Tony Coleman, a freelance NBA scout, has seen all the Knicks games in the Summer League, and he came away impressed with McBride. However, with the Knicks backcourt depth, he has tempered expectations on McBride breaking out in his rookie year.

“[Deuce] is very talented, athletic, good shooter from 3. He passes well, good on-ball defender. Overall, he’s well rounded and a good value pick,” Coleman told Empire Sports Media. “However, playing time is going to be another story. With Quickley, Kemba, Rose in the fold, when will Deuce get any minutes? We’ll have to see how things play out.”

With NBA returning to its 82-regular season calendar, Coleman believes McBride will carve out a role at some point especially given the health risks attached to Walker and Rose. And his Summer League play showed his versatility.

“I really like Deuce a lot. To be able to shoot the ball the way he can, he could also be used as a spot-up deep threat on the perimeter. Those moments both he and Quickley were in the games together, that particular scenario actually happened here in summer league play. Knicks have some decisions to make,” Coleman said.

McBride is showing a total package in the Summer League. He can catch and shoot, pull up, and create off the dribble. But it’s his defense that will be his calling card.

“Defensive energy, I mean, that’s where I get my offensive game going. It’s all about want. Get after guys,” McBride said.

With a body built like a tank, McBride was a double varsity until he broke his leg during his junior year in high school. He focused on basketball, but his quarterback experience had made him a better playmaker seeing the floor like the football field. On top of that vision, football also made him tough.

That’s why when he was picking where to go in college, he was drawn to West Virginia. He fell in love with coach Bob Huggins trademark “Press Virginia” — a smothering pressure defense.

“That’s one of the main reasons why I played for coach [Bob] Huggins is to play defense and learn more from him. I feel like it’s just a lot about of want — just having that mentality that I want to play to play defense, I want to stop guys from scoring instead of you know [playing like] it’s just part of the game, and I’m just out there to play,” McBride said.

For McBride, that shot clock beating three-pointer in the clutch came a long way. He was always ready to take that big shot because of his long, tedious preparation that started in their backyard. Him becoming a Knick to play behind one of his idols, Kemba Walker, to play under Thibodeau, who is as competitive and tough-minded as his father and Huggins, is a dream come true.

“Honestly, it’s been a long journey, hard work, and dedication, so, signing with the Knicks, I’m more than happy,” McBride said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Too Quick, Too Hot: Quickley lifts Knicks past Pacers in NBA Summer League

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After a jittery start to his first NBA Summer League, Immanuel Quickley got the perfect advice from New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.

“Just be yourself,” Quickley revealed.

And he looked like the Quickley that the Knicks have stolen with the 25th pick in last year’s NBA draft and was named to the All-Rookie NBA Team.

After a brutal 5-for-17 shooting in the Knicks’ 89-79 loss to the Toronto Raptors Sunday, Quickley bounced back strong with a game-high 32 points built around 11-of-21 field goals.

He was perfect six-for-six from the line and added eight assists against a single turnover. The guard out of Kentucky also had two steals in a solid game on both ends of the floor.

“Last game, I was kinda trying to find my way and get everybody involved,” Quickley said. “In this game, I’m kinda trying to do both but just a little bit more aggressive, help my teammates and be more of a leader.”

Quickley did much of the damage in the second half, dropping 23 points and six assists where the Knicks outscored the Pacers by 11 points.

Obi Toppin, who fed off Quickley’s point guard play, had another strong outing with 22 points and nine rebounds but had five turnovers.

Toppin started the game aggressively but a little bit out of control. He committed four of the Knicks’ 10 turnovers in the first quarter and missed three baskets around the rim, including a flubbed dunk in his first attempt. But once he got settled and played in the flow of things, the sophomore forward was a wrecking ball.

Two days after the Knicks lost to Atlanta Hawks in the first round, Quickley and Toppin were reportedly back in the gym.

“That’s what the Knicks culture is — working hard, enjoying the work, and getting better,” Quickley said. “We’re really excited for the Summer League team. We’re really excited for the next season. We just want to continue to get better and take the steps to move forward.”

The Knicks have prioritized getting Quickley more reps as a point guard in his first Summer League play. So far, the 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio had been impressive. He said he’s looking forward to soaking in more lessons from Derrick Rose and the newly acquired Kemba Walker.

Meanwhile, fan-favorite Jericho Sims stayed perfect in the NBA Summer League with an eight-point, nine-rebound effort. He was 4-for-4 from the field after going 6-for-6 in his debut. Sims, who signed a two-way deal reportedly for two years per Keith Smith of Spotrac, has been a revelation.

“He played phenomenal running the floor and catching lobs in traffic,” freelance NBA scout Tony Coleman told Empire Sports Media. “He’s playing solid defense on the other side of the ball. He’s definitely a steal in my humble opinion.”

Coleman is in Las Vegas for his scouting trip.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian guard Rokas Jokubaitis, the Knicks’ 36th pick, finally made his Knicks debut contributing three points and one assist in nine minutes.

Jokubaitis, a healthy DNP in the Knicks’ first game, was given more run this time than Luca Vildoza. Knicks Summer League coach Dice Yoshimoto even experimented with a three-guard lineup featuring Jokubaitis, Miles McBride, and Vildoza, who went scoreless in four minutes but managed to grab a rebound and one steal.

The Knicks’ first-round pick, Quentin Grimes, had another rough shooting game with six points on 2-for-10 shooting in almost 35 minutes. Matched against NBA Draft Day target Chris Duarte, Grimes committed five fouls. Duarte had a solid debut filling up the stats sheet with 14 points, two rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two shot blocks. The 24-year old Duarte played with so much poise and shot 4-of-8 from the field, including 3-for-7 from deep.

The Knicks’ other second-round pick, McBride, put an exclamation point to their win and his impressive game with a dunk.

With Thibodeau in attendance, McBride showed the toughness and tenacity that made the Knicks coach fall in love with his game. He scattered 14 points (5-of-7 from the field), three rebounds, one assist, and one steal.

On Wednesday, the Knicks will return to action against the Los Angeles Lakers at 10 pm ET on ESPN2.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo 

How Knicks’ free agent signings will help RJ Barrett reach a new level

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The New York Knicks did exactly what they needed to do this offseason acquiring two players that can create their own offense: Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. With the former Boston duo now sharing the backcourt in New York, one can only think that this will greatly benefit 3rd year forward RJ Barrett.

This past season, we saw much-improved play from the 21-year-old from Duke. Barrett increased his scoring, his efficiency, and his FG and 3pt FG %, all while being the second scoring option on a playoff team. He also improved his defense, becoming a reliable option for Coach Tom Thibodeau.

Where RJ Barrett Needs to Improve

If there’s one part of his game that needs the most work, it’s his shot creation. In 2020-2021, Barrett relied mainly on his perimeter game and finishing skills at the basket to generate offense. He only shot a combined 36% on field goal attempts from 10 feet to the 3 point line. Additionally, these only accounted for .156 of all RJ’s attempts. If he expects to take the next big leap as a scorer in 2021-22, he’s going to need to learn how to become more efficient at creating more midrange opportunities for the Knicks.

Barrett has been working this off-season diligently to improve his shot-creating and hesitation moves. Elevating that category will take pressure off Julius Randle to be the primary scorer, and with RJ’s ability to drive the rim, kicking it out to his sharpshooters will become even more lethal.

Fortunately, the presence of Walker and Fournier, two players that demand attention on offense, will give Barrett extra room to create and learn. He could also take after the two guards, who thrive from inside the 3 point line. Last season, Walker (in his worst shooting season since he was a rookie) still shot 41% from midrange, which was down from 47% the season before. Fournier, on the other hand, shot 44% from the same area while also seeing a big dip from previous seasons.

While Barrett’s scoring average may go down due to less usage, the play of the Knicks’ two newest additions will allow him to work on finding other ways to score and help him improve his ability to move without the ball.

There’s certainly a lot to look forward to this season, but how RJ continues to develop as a player will be one of the most intriguing.