Obi Toppin’s stat line through his first 22 games as a pro may not be as impressive as some other NBA rookies, but the eighth overall pick from this year’s draft is very appreciative of being able to build his game while learning from All-Star Julius Randle.
After playing 23 minutes in the Knicks’ regular season opener, Toppin suffered a calf injury that forced him to sit out 10 games. Upon returning to the lineup, Toppin’s playing time has diminished a bit, though he’s shown flashes in his limited playing time, including Tuesday’s seven-point performance in 13 minutes off the bench.
And while Toppin was slowed down by his injury, the biggest reason for his decreased playing time has been the All-Star play of Randle, who has taken his game to the next level under Tom Thibodeau, averaging 23.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game as the Knicks' starter at power forward.
Toppin said Thursday that being able to learn from Randle has been key to his development.
“That’s the role I’m playing right now. Jules is playing very good basketball and we’re winning a lot of games,” Toppin said. “Coach [Thibodeau] is a great coach and he knows what he has to do to allow the team to win.
“I feel like me playing in the position I’m playing in, it’s great just because I’m getting to learn behind an All-Star. Congratulations to Jules. Him being like a big brother to me, I’m learning behind him every single day and I feel like because of that I’m getting better.”
The Brooklyn native and Dayton product says that his goal right now is to continue to bring energy and make his teammates better every time he steps on the court, and he’s seen an improvement in his game since taking the floor for the first time in the preseason.
“I feel like I’m not 100 percent better than what I was before (my first preseason game), but I feel like I’m getting better as time goes on,” Toppin said. “I feel like the game is starting to slow down a little bit more for me. I’m starting to know my role of when I get into the game what I need to do to help the team win, and it’s just continuing working every single day to get better.
“This is my first year in the league, and as every game comes forward, I’ve got to learn from every mistake and get better.”