Knicks' Obi Toppin, Rick Brunson argument 'nothing serious'

Obi Toppin reacts after dunk white jersey preseason
Obi Toppin reacts after dunk white jersey preseason

Fans in Philadelphia saw Rick Brunson and Obi Toppin arguing during Knicks-Sixers on Friday.

Was it a sign of team discord? Nope.

Brunson, a Knicks assistant, knows Toppin well. He worked with the Knicks forward throughout the 2020-21 season. So when Brunson challenged Toppin on Friday in Philadelphia, it led to a few "extra" words between the coach and player. According to one fan at Wells Fargo, Brunson and Toppin had to be separated.

But whatever Brunson said to Toppin seemed to motivate him.

Toppin hit five of seven shots in the fourth quarter, including three threes. His play was key in New York’s win over the short-handed Sixers.

“He just needed me to play harder. And he looked at me and told me to play harder,” Toppin said of the argument with Brunson. “And I was like, 'I got you.' Little bit extra words. But I had to step it up and he made it known I had to step up. It happened in the second half.”

Head coach Tom Thibodeau described it as a normal part of life in the NBA.

So did Toppin.

“That's my family. I love Rick. It's just basketball. Competitive. You see what happened when he did that. It got me going,” Toppin said. “He knows that about me. Me and him will always have love for each other. Nothing serious.”

We don’t know a ton about this Knicks team just nine games into the season. But it’s a good sign that players like Toppin respond to challenges from the coaching staff. Those kinds of interactions can be an indication of the health of a team. When a team is connected, players respond positively to the ‘heat of the moment’ argument. When teams are disconnected, those arguments can just make things worse.


Mitchell Robinson is out for at least a week with a knee sprain. So you may see more lineups with Julius Randle and Toppin at the power forward/center spot.

Those lineups played well in the win against Philadelphia. They were not sharp against Boston. New York was outscored by 14 points in the seven minutes when Toppin and Randle were on the front line.

If the Knicks are going to weather Robinson’s absence, they’ll need to get strong play from Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims. And they’ll probably need to get strong play from the Toppin-Randle lineups.

“I love it,” Randle said. “Play fast, spacing on the floor, obviously, on the offensive end. Being able to switch.

“The biggest thing is with that group is we just have to rebound. I think that’s the one thing, even when he’s not out there, it’s not a 4 and 5. I think we clean up our rebounding and we’ll be fine."

Randle was asked about the key to rebounding with those lineups.

“I gotta go get ‘em. I’m looking at myself first,” he said.