In his first 12 months working the Sixers’ bench final season, Doc Rivers turned a prime candidate to win NBA Coach of the 12 months.
Rivers didn’t fairly get the vote, however his protégé — Tom Thibodeau, who served as his assistant for 3 seasons in Boston, together with when the Celtics gained their final title, in 2008 — did.
Rivers can take slightly pleasure in Thibodeau’s head-coaching success and turning across the Knicks franchise by breaking a seven-season playoff drought. Rivers really thought Thibodeau and Suns head coach Monty Williams ought to’ve shared the award.
“I assumed he was terrific,’’ Rivers stated earlier than Tuesday’s 112-99 Knicks victory. “I personally assume him and Monty had been my selections. I wanted they need to’ve cut up as a result of I assumed it ought to’ve been cut up final 12 months. However Thibs is a helluva coach. Labored with me for 3 years, felt like 9, However he’s simply good. He works his butt off. He’s in love with the sport of basketball. If each participant had that very same ardour they’d be higher gamers. Identical for teaching.’’
Whereas Thibodeau was unemployed after his Minnesota ouster in January 2019, he typically visited Rivers’ Clippers practices in Los Angeles.
“I stored calling everybody: ‘Please get this man a job, so he can cease hanging round with me, making me go to dinner,’ ’’ Rivers stated. “I believe I gained 20 kilos in a freakin’ 12 months with Thibs.’’
A former Knick, Rivers performed right here from 1992-94. The Submit has ranked the highest 75 Knicks to have a good time their 75th anniversary, and Rivers made the reduce.
“Am I Three or 4?” he requested a reporter.
Knowledgeable he got here in at No. 66, Rivers stated, laughing, “Jeez. I believe that’s incorrect. That’s excellent news for me, I performed what, 2 ¹/₂ years? So meaning I had a fairly good run. I beloved taking part in right here. My youngsters are previous now, hell. They’re taking part in within the league. They nonetheless, each from time to time, after we’re going to New York, they’ll sing that tune ‘Go New York Go New York Go.’ It’s like embedded of their minds.’’
The Knicks embark on a two-game street journey to Chicago (Thursday) and New Orleans (Saturday). The Bulls recreation will likely be memorable for Thibodeau, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson as “Joakim Noah Evening’’ is well known at United Heart.
Coming into coaching camp, the Knicks had well being issues at middle. They had been apprehensive concerning the fallacious man.
Whereas Mitchell Robinson, recovering from a damaged foot, he made it to the season opener proper on time, Nerlens Noel didn’t.
The veteran middle who re-signed on a three-year, $31 million deal, was held out of all 4 preseason video games and now has missed the primary 4 regular-season contests, resting once more versus the Sixers.
“He’s ramped up fairly good proper now,’’ Thibodeau stated earlier than the sport. “Hopefully it will likely be quickly. It’s when he’s able to go. So he’s been taking some contact. He’s actual shut.’’
Noel has handled hamstring and knee points and suffered a setback earlier than the preseason finale.
“He was virtually again as soon as after which he had some soreness,’’ Thibodeau stated. “He had soreness in his knee [but] the hamstring is ok. And that soreness is far improved.”
Noel is a defensive middle and the Knicks’ protection hadn’t been pretty much as good at defending the rim. Final season, in his contract 12 months, Noel had a profession season in ending fourth within the NBA in blocks (3.0).
Fortunately, Robinson made it again before some projected. Held out till the preseason finale, Robinson has seemed bulkier and stronger.