Knicks postgame notes: Update on Obi Toppin's injury and RJ Barrett's shooting struggles

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Obi Toppin courtside
Obi Toppin courtside

A few notes on the Knicks’ 20-point loss to the Sixers on Saturday: 

Obi Toppin will miss at least six games due to a calf strain. The Knicks say they’ll re-evaluate Toppin in 7-10 days, which means he won’t begin practicing until at least Jan. 3. So you shouldn’t expect him to play until at least Jan. 6 in the best-case scenario. 

Missing six games in a 72-game season isn’t the end of the world. But this season was supposed to be a  five-month opportunity for Toppin to lean on the job, and play through mistakes. That’s why the missed practices and games are so consequential for the 22-year old Knick.

Before the injury news, Tom Thibodeau said he’d seen Toppin progress throughout training camp, the preseason and the start of the regular season. 

“I think he has the right approach and I think he’ll continue to grow,” Thibodeau said of Toppin, the No. 8 overall pick. 

With Toppin out, Kevin Knox may get some time at power forward behind Julius Randle. Thibodeau said on Saturday that Immanuel Qiuckley (hip) will also likely be out on Sunday against Milwaukee.

BARRETT STRUGGLES: RJ Barrett missed 13 of his 15 shot attempts against Phildalphia. Elfrid Payton finished 0-for-6 from the floor. Thibodeau said Barrett was taking quality shots during the loss to the Sixers. 

“If you’re taking your shots and you’re shooting the ball well and it doesn’t go in, that’s fine. There’s other things you can do. He has the ability to help us a lot of different ways,” Thibodeau said of Barrett, who shot well in the Knicks’ opener against Indiana. “ He can help us with his playmaking, he can drive the ball, he can get to the free throw line, which he did, run the floor. Move without the ball."

Barrett played well in New York’s season-opener. He said late Saturday night that he wasn’t too concerned about his poor shooting night.

“I think it was one of those nights. They’re a great defensive team. they have a lot of big bodies. I was trying to do other things to keep myself in the game, do other things to affect the game."

One of the few positives for New York on Saturday? Alec Burks and Julius Randle continued to play well. Those two producing on consistent basis has good short term effects for New York and – potentially – good long-term benefits for the club.

You’d think that nights like Saturday’s increase the trade value for both Randle and Burks. Thibodeau used Burks as a lead guard in some bench lineups over the first two games, turning to the veteran ahead of Frank Ntilikina. Dennis Smith Jr. was the first point guard off of the Knicks’ bench on Saturday. Ntilikina didn’t play until the game was out of hand in the fourth quarter. 

Praise for Thibodeau: Thibodeau was the Knicks’ biggest acquisition. New York doesn’t have a star on the roster, so Thibodeau will be the driving force behind any success or failures this season. Sixers coach Doc Rivers, whom Thibodeau worked for in Boston, praised the Knicks’ new coach.

“He’s just an absolute pro. Loves basketball, breathes basketball. He’s going to teach these young guys – they have so many young guys – he’s going to teach them the right way to play, the right way to conduct themselves. And I don’t think you could have picked a better person to do this.”

Theo Pinson said earlier Saturday that Thibodeau is committed to daily improvement with his young roster. 

“You could tell he puts in the time to make sure we’re in the right places at the right time and the right spots to succeed,” Pinson said. “And he’s implementing the culture here. And right now it’s just work. And I love it, honestly. Defensively, smart. Offensively, smart. Just trying to get better everyday. I think that’s what he tries to preach, every single day to get better. And we’re doing that.”

Here's Pinson, a former Net, when asked to compared the Nets fan base and Knick fan base: "I mean, it’s New York. (The) market loves basketball. But there’s Knicks fans all over the world. Brooklyn just became a team just recently; there’s Knicks fans all over the world. The following is unbelievable so it’s been good."