Knicks Urged to Bring Back Tom Thibodeau Loyalist as Obi Toppin Replacement

Obi Toppin, New York Knicks

Getty Obi Toppin of the New York Knicks talks with head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Taj Gibson, a Tom Thibodeau loyalist, was floated as one of the several cheap options for the New York Knicks to replace the recently traded Obi Toppin.

Gibson, 38, an unrestricted free agent, could serve as a locker room leader, a mentor to Mitchell Robinson and an emergency backup in case Julius Randle suffers an injury, according to The Athletic’s Fred Katz.

“He’s one of Thibodeau’s most-loyal longtime liaisons. He has played for Thibodeau in all three of the coach’s stops (Chicago Bulls, Timberwolves and Knicks). Derrick Rose is already out the door after signing with the Memphis Grizzlies. Maybe Thibodeau wants another well-respected translator in the locker room. Knicks players already revere Gibson. He’s one of Robinson’s favorite all-time teammates. The 25-year-old center soaks up whatever advice Gibson has to provide. And if there is an emergency, and Gibson has to fill in, he can still knock down a corner 3 and play strong team defense,” Katz wrote.

Gibson played for the Washington Wizards last season after spending three seasons with the Knicks. While Thibodeau’s rotation seems set with nine of the Knicks’ 12 players on guaranteed deals, three less than the league’s maximum, opening the door for a Gibson reunion.

The Knicks can bring 20 players to the training camp.

Currently, they have 18 players — 12 on guaranteed deals, three on non-guaranteed deals — Isaiah Roby, Daquan Jeffries and Jacob Toppin, Obi’s young brother, and three on two-way contracts — Dylan Windler, Nathan Knight and Jaylen Martin.

The 12 players on guaranteed contracts are last season’s starters Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Robinson, plus their bench: Immanuel Quickley, Josh Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein and depth pieces Miles McBride and Jericho Sims, free agency pickup Donte DiVincenzo and the disgruntled veteran Evan Fournier.

Gibson, a Brooklyn native, played a key role off the bench during the Knicks’ first playoff run in 2021 that ended an eight-year drought for the New York franchise.

The Reason Why Knicks Did Not Pursue O.G. Anunoby

The Knicks did not go all-in on O.G. Anunoby at the February trade deadline because they feared that the two-way wing will not sign an extension, according to SNY’s Ian Begley.

“My understanding on Anunoby [trade talks] was that the [Knicks] were ready to be aggressive at the [trade] deadline, but there was a concern about if Anunoby would then sign in New York long term if they traded for him,”  Begley said on the July 26 episode of the Orange and Blue Bloods podcast.

The Knicks were comfortable offering three first-round picks for Anunoby before the trade deadline, according to Begley in January. But the quality of those picks isn’t exactly high-end, according to Sportsnet Canada’s Michael Grange in February, referring to the Knicks’ first-round selections from Dallas, Washington, Milwaukee and Detroit with varying protections.

Zach Lowe Slams Stephen A. Smith’s Damian Lillard Trade Wish

ESPN colleagues Zach Lowe and Stephen A. Smith had contrasting opinions on Damian Lillard’s potential fit with the Knicks.

Lowe slammed Smith’s idea of the Knicks going all-in on Lillard, who requested a trade out of Portland.

“Can I say something to Stephen A Smith? I don’t think the [Knicks] should go for Damian Lillard,” Lowe said on the July 26 episode of the NBA Today.

While Lowe agreed with Smith that Lillard will be fine offensively in New York, his disagreement stemmed from the defensive side where a small backcourt with Jalen Brunson isn’t ideal in today’s NBA.

“And I just think if I had Jalen Brunson already — he was an All-Star candidate last year, an All-NBA candidate — I’m using my assets to get a player at a different kind of position. So Stephen A., I think Damian as the all-in play for New York, it’s blasphemy,” he added.

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