When Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride were out of the Knicks rotation early last season, they had a specific game day routine. It was a full-court one-on-one drill. Before games, Grimes defended McBride. After games, they switched. They did the same thing in the offseason.
"All summer, Coach Erm (Knicks assistant Darren Erman) had me picking him up full-court. Him picking me up full-court," Grimes said Wednesday. "…. It just makes it easier when we both come together."
Grimes and McBride have been together on the court a lot over the past two games. And the results are encouraging.
The Knicks are 2-0 in that span thanks to two of their best defensive performances of the season.
On Sunday, they held the Cleveland Cavaliers to 35 percent shooting in a home win. On Wednesday, they bothered the Atlanta Hawks all night, limiting them to 37 percent shooting in another victory.
Coincidence or not, Grimes and McBride have played heavy minutes in the past two games.
The playing time is a result of Tom Thibodeau’s latest tweak to the rotation. On Sunday, Thibodeau inserted McBride into his nine-man rotation and removed Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish.
So far, the rotation has worked well.
The Knicks have home wins over two quality opponents (of note: Dejounte Murray missed most of Wednesday’s game with an injury). Before the rotation change, New York had dropped eight of nine at home.
It’s reductive to credit just Grimes and McBride for the results. The Knicks have defended and rebounded well as a team. And they’ve protected the ball.
But Grimes and McBride seem to be a significant factor.
The two second-year guards have shared the floor for 19 minutes, on average, over the past two games. Opponents are shooting 31 percent from the floor and 22 percent from beyond the arc in those minutes, per NBA.com.
It seems like Thibodeau will stick with the new rotation for the foreseeable future.
"We're getting more information on who works well together, how the team functions, and the most important thing is how the team functions," Thibodeau said. "That has to be first and foremost for everyone."
The new rotation adds uncertainty to the immediate futures of Rose, Reddish and Evan Fournier.
You’ll certainly hear all three players amid trade rumors over the next few weeks. There was a report from the New York Daily News on Wednesday that stated Reddish and his representatives were working with the Knicks on a trade. Reddish said he wasn’t aware of that development and hadn’t requested a trade. Regardless, several teams have expressed interest in trading for Reddish since the Knicks acquired him in January 2022. The Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks are among the teams who reached out to New York in that span.
It’s worth noting that the Lakers and Knicks talked earlier this month about a potential trade that would have required a third team to complete.
The Lakers, who need shooting, have an open roster spot after waiving Matt Ryan. So they can acquire a player without giving one up. They can also acquire two players in a trade of one player.
Also on the trade front, the Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons touched base recently on trade talks in which Nerlens Noel’s name came up. Noel, the former Knick, has drawn interest from several contending teams who have struggled with rim protection. Noel was a key force for New York’s defense in 2021, when the club made a surprise run to the playoffs.
He was traded to the Pistons in the 2022 offseason, part of New York’s effort to clear cap space it needed to sign free agent Jalen Brunson.
Detroit is playing two young front court players, so teams believe that the club is at least open to discussing deals about Noel.