Knicks Tom Thibodeau Sticks With Struggling Starter Because of Simple Reason

Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks

Getty Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks reacts during the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is not going to change his starting lineup despite Quentin Grimes‘ continued struggle.

“My thing is, I’m worried about the team playing well,” Thibodeau said via New York Post. “And so, I look at, how are we playing? If one guy doesn’t make shots, that’s part of the game. What are the other things that you’re doing when you’re on the floor? Is the unit performing well?”

“To me, it’s not about individuals. It’s about, how is the unit performing. And if the unit is performing well, then you’re fine, right? And if you’re open, you shoot it, and if you’re guarded, you make a play. He can help a lot, and he does. He’s guarding a lot of different players for us. That’s a very important role for our team.”

The Knicks are fine with Grimes in the starting lineup despite his shooting struggles. That lineup of Jalen Brunson, Grimes, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson is averaging a plus-7.3, per NBA’s advanced stats. That is the fifth-best net rating among the top 10 most 5-man lineups used this season.

Grimes hit a wall following his breakout sophomore year when he averaged a career-high 11.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 46.8% from the field and 38.6% from the outside. This season, he’s just shooting a career-low 36.3% from the field, the worst among all Knicks rotation players.

Quentin Grimes’ Diminished Role

While Thibodeau is sticking his guns on Grimes in the starting lineup, the Knicks coach made an adjustment that helped the Knicks to a 12-7 start.

Thibodeau reduced Grimes’ minutes, benching him mostly in the fourth quarter in favor of DiVincenzo. Grimes has only appeared in eight of the 17 fourth quarters he was available to play.

DiVincenzo has been stellar for the Knicks off the bench, averaging 3.2 points on 46.3% from the field and 48.4% from deep in 7.4 minutes in the fourth quarter this season. In contrast, Grimes is only good for 1.0 point on 27.3% overall shooting and 22.2% from downtown in a 5.1-minute average stint down the stretch.

The 26-year-old DiVincenzo is the team’s second-best 3-point shooter behind his best friend and former Villanova backcourt mate Jalen Brunson. Brunson leads the team with a career-high 47.4% shooting from downtown. DiVincenzo (43.4%) is the only other Knicks player shooting above 40%.

Knicks Coach to Quentin Grimes: ‘Soldier On’

Thibodeau has a simple advice to his struggling starting wing: “Soldier on.”

“There are ups and downs. Just be mentally tough,” Thibodeau said postgame, per the Daily News. “Play defense. Run the floor. You don’t know when it changes. It could change the next play. You get an easy bucket. A shot goes down. He’s a good player. So you’ve gotta navigate the good. You can navigate them when it gets tough.

“Soldier on. That’s it. Just keep going.”

The Knicks have resisted including Grimes in potential star trades in the past, including their much-documented Donovan Mitchell pursuit two summers ago. Grimes’s struggles come at a crucial juncture in his young NBA career as he would become extension-eligible after this season.


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