What Tom Thibodeau has accomplished effectively, the place he is failed with Knicks


Tom Thibodeau
Picture: Getty Pictures

The phrase “Knicks for clicks” is comparatively unknown outdoors of New York Knickerbocker fan circles. It’s a pejorative time period to explain mainstream media’s calculated dissemination of anti-Knicks content material for the sake of visitors and views. When the Knicks are talked about in any section on ESPN or FS1, it’s often to scoff at their 20-year ineptitude beneath James Dolan, even when issues have been comparatively competent since Leon Rose took over as president of Basketball Operations in 2020.

However to those that dwell and breathe New York basketball, those that bleed orange and blue, the highs and lows of the present Knicks crew are debated each day in each potential space. Probably the most polarizing and contentious subject is the pinnacle teaching job of Tom Thibodeau, who’s the 31st head coach in franchise historical past, the 2020-2021 Coach of the Yr, and the 11th all-time winningest Knicks coach. Thibodeau’s job on the sidelines has break up Knicks followers down the center, initiating verbal fisticuffs between brothers, life-long associates, podcast hosts, and full strangers.

What Thibs has accomplished effectively

First, the nice: Thibodeau is with out query one of the best Knicks coach within the final 20 years. He’s elite at establishing id, tradition, and habits. He has the Knicks enjoying ferocious protection, as he’s identified to be devoted to teaching, spending numerous sleepless nights calculating his pre-game preparation. Consequently, the Knicks — via 51 video games — rank fifth in opponent subject objectives made (40.4), third in opponent’s subject aim proportion (45.3), and fifth in opponent three-point proportion (34.9).

He’s additionally an underrated developer. This trait may be traced again to his time in Chicago, the place he developed Derrick Rose to the youngest-ever MVP, in addition to creating Joakim Noah into an elite defensive stopper and increasing the video games of Loul Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson.

He’s continued that in New York, the place he has contributed to the expansion of RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride, Jericho Sims, and particularly Mitchell Robinson. He has additionally unlocked “star” degree skills in free agent acquisitions Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. The Knicks are again within the playoff hunt — at present seventh within the East via 51 video games — after a disappointing season that noticed the crew rise and fall beneath the psychological fragility of Randle. They’ve exhibited powerhouse defensive performances in stretches, profitable eight video games in a row in December, behind the preparation and motivation from Thibodeau.

Thibodeau has maximized the potential from his eight-man rotation and gotten them back to playing competitive basketball in 2023. Unfortunately, that’s where this story’s positive trajectory ends.

Where Thibs fails

“Thibs,” as he is known to fans of all three franchises he’s coached, has an expiration date. Usually, it arrives around Year 3, when he has fully maximized the positives he brings to a formerly downtrodden franchise. That’s the case with the Knicks. He took the team from the depths of NBA hell and made them respectable again. But he has never been known as a competent in-game adjuster, a skill more pivotal than ever in a head coach. He’s also the most rigid head coach in the Association. He’s arrogant when it comes to minute distribution, rotations, game planning, and offensive playcalling. These faults usually lead him to burn out his starters, with the best players on the last three teams he’s coached routinely leading the league in minutes played. Thibs apologists will point to only Randle being in the top 20 minutes per game. But when you look at the metrics from the point in December when Thibs shortened the roster to a nine-man rotation, Barrett, Brunson, and Randle all skyrocketed up the list.

He also depends on two schemes phased out of the NBA by modernity — drop defense by the center position, and isolation offense. Even with the NBA evolving into a product where the three is king, Thibs consistently emphasizes protecting the paint. It’s led to role players from almost every team in the league getting hot on the Knicks, torching them from the perimeter because Thibs demands his center hedges toward the paint against the pick and roll while his guards pack the paint, leaving the perimeter wide-open. It’s even worse on offense, where Thibs leaves the playcalling up to his best player. For the last two years, that’s been Randle, a power forward. This season it’s been Randle and Brunson, both of whom shoot first and prefer to over-dribble on an island before heaving difficult isolation shots. Under Thibs, the Knicks are third worst in assists per game (22.4), second worst in assist ratio, and fourth worst in pace. This reveals Thibs’ antiquated half-course offense, predicated on isolation players and guys standing idle in the corner.

Far too often, under Thibs, the offense breaks down in the fourth quarter. The Knicks typically move the ball much better in the first half. For some reason, when the pressure tightens up in the fourth, Thibs allows Brunson and Randle to go iso as much as they want, with zero change in scheme or benching either of them when it’s out of hand.

What makes it all the more insufferable is we’ve seen it all before. If anyone knows this, it should be Rose, who was Thibs’ agent before he was his boss with the Knicks. He was there in Chicago and then Minnesota. He watched as Derrick Rose’s knees turned to dust. Thibs has lost playoff series after playoff series from a lack of offensive creativity and under-utilizing his bench. He left Chicago with a .402 winning playoff percentage, just .001 better than his overall playoff record. Things got worse in Minny and New York, where he made the playoffs just once with both teams, winning just one game in both first-round trouncings.

Thibs supporters continue to shake ass for mediocre benchmarks like effort, team defense, and making the Play-In, metrics Thibs excels at as a head coach. But for the Knicks to take advantage of their high-upside young core, they will need to hire someone better than Thibs at adjusting to the modern game. To take the next step, they need someone who is an elite in-game adjuster and willing to divert from their game plan when it stops working. Thibodeau’s biggest enemy is himself. Unfortunately, with his best friend and former agent, Rose, his boss with the Knicks, it’s unlikely to happen. Thibs will play out his five-year contract — not because he deserves it, but because Rose likely doesn’t want to deal with the optics of firing his splashiest hire, a clear admission he chose the wrong guy. It’s been almost 25 years since James Dolan was handed the Knicks on a silver spoon, and still today, cronyism continues to rot MSG from the inside out.

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