Taj Gibson says Knicks 'showed growth' by not collapsing after 21-point comeback from Timberwolves

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Ian Begley
·5 min read
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Taj Gibson playing D vs. Timberwolves
Taj Gibson playing D vs. Timberwolves

The Knicks nearly blew a 21-point lead on Sunday but held on late to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It was an ugly win but showed how the franchise has taken a step in the right direction this season.

“That just showed growth. Understanding that we’re a different team from last year, as far as the mental state. How we huddle. When it’s close, understanding the stakes,” Taj Gibson said after his defense on Karl-Anthony Towns helped New York seal the win.

Knicks teams from the past half decade or so probably lose a game like Sunday’s. In seasons past, a loss like that usually started a downward spiral that ended with a coach or executive being fired.

But in their first season under Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks have shown a resilience that’s been mostly missing for the past seven years.

Why is that?

“I think coaching staff. Our coaching staff has been drilling guys from the beginning of the summer up to this point. The preparation beginning at shootarounds has been outstanding,” Gibson, who played for New York last season, said Sunday night. “It’s always tough to play 48-minute games but the way we all huddle around each other, everybody top to bottom, hangs out, works out late with each other. Everybody understands the stakes. And guys want to win.”

After Sunday’s win, New York sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

Julius Randle (25 points, 14 rebounds) has been a driving force behind the Knicks’ success. But Thibodeau and his staff deserve a fair share of the credit.

Thibodeau has taken a roster predicted by many to be one of the worst in the league this year and turned them into a competitive, respectable outfit.

NO G LEAGUE PLANS FOR NTILIKINA:

Frank Ntilikina is back with the team following a brief absence due to the NBA’s contact tracing protocols. But he remains out of the rotation. Thibodeau said Sunday that there are no plans for Ntilikina to go to the G League bubble to get regular minutes with the Westchester Knicks.

“No, not yet,” Thibodeau said when asked if the club had considered sending Ntilikina to the G League. “I think we’ll take a look at it as we go. I like Frank being here. He’s done an excellent job; he’s got a great attitude, great approach. And even though he’s not playing he’s adding a lot to our team right now.”

TAJ STIFLES KAT:

Gibson forced Towns into a shot he didn’t want to take in the final minute. A Towns make would have given Minnesota a lead with under 30 seconds to play. Gibson didn’t let Towns go to the middle of the lane, and forced him away from one of his go-to moves.

“I knew he was really trying to get middle. That’s all I watched (on tape) the last couple of days with these couple of practices that we had,” said Gibson, who played with Towns in Minnesota for two seasons. “I know he wanted to get middle. And I know that’s his go-to move. And I just tried to wall him up, tried to be physical. And I got a lucky bounce and Jules was able to secure (the rebound).”

Gibson said that the game wasn’t overly significant for Thibodeau, who was fired by Minnesota in 2019.

The Timberwolves, somewhat ironically, fired Ryan Saunders – the head coach who replaced Thibodeau – shortly after they lost to the Knicks.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Khalid Green, a former Nets scout, has joined the New Heights AAU program as its community director.

Green will work with local organizations and run developmental basketball and academic programs for the Brooklyn community.

In addition to his work with the Nets, Green has deep roots in high school and AAU basketball in New York.

Green was the head coach at Bishop Loughlin high school in Brooklyn when the program boasted several Division I players, including Doron Lamb and JayVaughn Pinkston.

Green joins New Heights as the program prepares to open space at the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

The program, which counts former Knick and Net Lance Thomas and current Miami Heat player Precious Achiuwa among its alums, will be an anchor tenant in the recreation and community center.

Green, who recently worked with the Knicks community outreach program, began working with New Heights in 2020.

“We are extremely excited to have Khalid join the New Heights family as we prepare for our move to Brooklyn,” said Adam Berkowitz, the Associate Executive Director at New Heights. “His experience with both the Knicks and Nets and his deep roots in Brooklyn will be valuable assets to the organization as we serve thousands of youth from Crown Heights and the surrounding areas with basketball skill development, academic support and life skills programming at the Bedford Union Armory."

The Armory has three basketball courts, a pool and a turf field. It also has office and classroom space. So New Heights will use the space for its basketball, academic and tutoring programs.


New Heights also plans to run programming for the community at the Armory, including skills and drills sessions for young players in partnership with local organizations.

The Armory will likely also serve as a site for game-day shootarounds/practices for visiting NBA and college teams and is expected to host NBPA skills camps.