The emergence of Julius Randall, the development of RJ Barrett, and the overall stability of the Knicks and the stability of first-year coach Tom Thibodeau are the main storylines of last year’s surprise playoff team.
But without a valuable second unit led by Derrick Rose, Emmanuel Quickley and Alec Burks, the Knicks would not have reached the postseason for the first time in eight years. The group was repeatedly finishing games and prompting significant victories.
“I thought it was one of our strengths,” Tibodo said Wednesday. “I think depth is important, especially with all the things that the boys go through, like the league is right now. So, I want to build on that.”
The Knicks took a major step in that effort when they brought back Rose and Berks. In the preseason opener at the Garden on Tuesday night, the key reserves were comfortable together, with Rose, Quickley, Berks and Obi Toppin combining for 36 points and 15 rebounds. Quickley picked up seven assists and Rose scored three times. He has just made one turnover.
This is similar to what Knicks fans have often seen a year ago since Rose was acquired in early February. Rose helped transform the unit, enabling Quickley to play more with the ball, and Toppin helped him find him at the end of the year more often and instill confidence in the youth.
Now, they are all back, and the chemistry is there.
“I feel like our second unit, because we’re like last year, I feel like we’re comfortable playing with each other and it’s going to court, we’ll do what we have to do to keep the lead, improve the lead or [get] If we drop a couple of points, it will come back. “Toppin said.” When we get to court, we know that our job is to bring energy and fight as much as we can, so when the first unit comes back, they know what we’ve done. “
This year’s group is hopeful that Quickley and Toppin know what to expect following their new asons and that they can improve as players. Rose showed no signs of losing steam at age 33, and the 30-year-old Berks hit 41.5 percent from 3-point range and was a valuable two-way player. After Michelle Robinson returns from her ankle injury, she will have a top rim-protector in Nerlens Noel or Robinson.
“Our team, we have a lot of depth on the bench and our team can be really dangerous, and we’re going to work every day,” Toppin said.
The Knicks ’biggest upgrades in the offseason are starters Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, skilled veterans who should improve the offense and reduce the pressure on Randall and Barrett. The duo looked to be well-matched on Tuesday, sparking a grand victory. But the bench was equally impressive. There was no dropoff to reserves from starters.
“They have great chemistry together,” Thibodeau said.