Knicks' Obi Toppin, still working back from calf injury, draws praise from Tom Thibodeau

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Alex Smith
·2 min read
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Obi Toppin in black uniform tight shot
Obi Toppin in black uniform tight shot

Immanuel Quickley has been making headlines in New York, and rightfully so, as the rookie guard from Kentucky continues to play at a very high level.

Because of Quickley’s terrific start, combined with an early-season injury, fellow rookie Obi Toppin has taken somewhat of a backseat.

The eighth overall pick out of Dayton, Toppin had a great preseason before scoring nine points in 23 minutes during his NBA debut on Dec. 23. But just as the high-flyer’s rookie year was getting off the ground, a calf injury kept him sideline for 10 games.

Toppin has slowly worked his way back into the rotation, though he’s still only averaging about 13 minutes per game over the last five games, compared to the 23 he played in the opener against Indiana.

But the power forward played well in Friday night’s commanding win over the Cavaliers, scoring five points on 2-of-4 shooting with three rebounds, and assist and a block. The Knicks outscored the Cavs by seven points while Toppin was on the floor, which was his highest +/- of the season.

It was another small step forward for Toppin, but head coach Tom Thibodeau said on Saturday that he liked the way the rookie handled himself on Friday, knocking down his first three-pointer he hit two of them against Boston on Jan. 17.

“I think [the three-point shot] will be a big part of his game. He’s got that skill set,” Thibodeau said. “I thought he played really well yesterday. I thought our bench gave us a big lift, but I thought he played with a lot of poise yesterday. I thought he shot the ball when he was open and he should have shot the ball and he passed the ball when he should have passed, and I thought he made he quick decisions.

“And I think he’s making great strides defensively, which I think is critical for him and for us.”

Toppin is putting up modest numbers through his first 10 games, averaging 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds, but as he continues to get healthy and adapt to the NBA game, the potential certainly exists for Toppin to become a game-changer for the Knicks.