Last week, someone asked Tom Thibodeau about the Knicks’ approach to building their roster.
He credited team president Leon Rose and GM Scott Perry for bringing in players with “toughness, basketball IQ, competitiveness and character.”
At the end of his answer, Thibodeau added: “The shooting component is huge for us. So we’ll continue to put a premium on that.”
So what happened on Friday night in Orlando shouldn’t have come as a complete shock. In a blowout win over the Magic, the Knicks set franchise records for threes made (24) and attempted (54).
“We wanted to shoot more threes but we wanted them to be the right threes,” Thibodeau said after the win. “So when guys are putting it down when the second defender comes, make the right reads. And you’re rim reads are critical; second defender, spray it out, make the right pass. Oftentimes you’re involving two or three people on that play to get you a rhythm shot.
“And if everyone understands when the ball gets shot, if gives you an opportunity to not only go for offensive rebounds, but also to get your defense set.”
That approached has worked well for New York this week. They’re 2-0 for the first time in nine seasons. And the three-point shot has been key in both of their wins.
“What we’re seeing in the NBA today is the premium that’s put on shooting,” Thibodeau said. “Oftentimes, there’s at least four shooters, three-point shooters on the floor. Now we’re seeing that there’s five.”
The Knicks have had lineups with four and five shooters on the floor this week. Possibly due to injuries at the center position, New York has rolled out lineups featuring Julius Randle at center and Obi Toppin at power forward regularly in its first two games.
“One of the (reasons) why I think we’re effective when Julius is at the five and Obi’s at the four is because the floor is opened up and now we have driving gaps where we can get to the basket,” Thibodeau said after Friday’s win.
Those lineups have also created opportunities in transition and beyond the arc. Randle seems to enjoy playing center in those smaller lineups. It sounds like Thibodeau will continue to use them early in the season.
But that shouldn’t be viewed as a sign that the organization is down on Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel or Taj Gibson.
“I think what Mitch is doing for us is tremendous and he’ll get better and better as we go,” Thibodeau said of Robinson. “His impact on the game, it’s not measured by the box score, I can tell you that.”