Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t sure if point guard Derrick Rose would join the Knicks in Oklahoma City for Saturday’s game. If he does, it would be a big boon.
Rose missed his third straight game because of COVID-19 protocols, though the Knicks won’t say if he tested positive for the virus. The Knicks are 1-2 in his absence — both losses by blowouts. The Knicks’ point guard play was substandard Thursday in the 134-101 loss in Milwaukee.
“He’s missed for sure,’’ Julius Randle said. “His presence and what he brings to the team is huge for us. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench he gets us going, playing fast. Whatever it is, we miss his presence. It’s tough but other guys have to step in and step up.”
Elfrid Payton has been the starting point guard the past two games, and he shot just 4 of 14 against the Bucks. Rookie Immanuel Quickley is being used off the bench in more of ballhandling role.
As good as his rookie season has been, Quickley is not a playmaker and sometimes hurts the club looking for his shot too soon. As he dribbled down the last seconds of the first half, Quickley got it down to two seconds when he realized he didn’t have a good look and passed it off to Alec Burks just as the buzzer sounded. Quickley shot 3 of 10.
“Of course we miss Derrick, but right now we got to fight with what we got,’’ said backup center Taj Gibson, who made his return from a sprained ankle. “We have to hold down the fort.
Ever since he worked as a Rockets assistant under GM Daryl Morey from 2004-07, Thibodeau had been curious about attending the analytic extravaganza at MIT — the Sloan Conference.
The Morey-inspired gathering was finally attended by Thibodeau last year — ironically on March 11 when the 2019-20 season was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic.
Out of a job, Thibodeau planned to do Sloan then visit coach Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee. He never got to Brew City.
“I remember at the convention everyone was concerned because the way the news was spreading whether we should even be there,’’ Thibodeau said Thursday. “Obviously, what transpired after was a challenge for the entire world. We’re still not through it. So we have to keep doing the best we can and take every precaution that we can. Safety has to come first.’’
Though some have branded Thibodeau an old-schooler who doesn’t believe in analytics, the Knicks coach said that’s a myth.
“I try to always catch up on what transpired there,’’ Thibodeau said. “I had an opportunity to work with Daryl Morey in Houston. I’ve always followed it pretty closely. Fortunately if you’re coaching, you don’t have the time to go. But you talk to people who were there and good things were coming out of it.’’
Gibson made a speedier-than-expected return, playing 26 minutes, scoring seven after missing the previous three games.