Obi Toppin Sounds off on Tom Thibodeau After Pacers Beat Knicks

Obi Toppin, New York Knicks

Getty Obi Toppin of the New York Knicks reacts during the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Obi Toppin went on a tear to end the regular season, which bodes well for the New York Knicks as they head to Cleveland for the first two games of the NBA Playoffs with All-Star forward Julius Randle‘s status still up in the air.

Riding high on a five-game stretch, during which he averaged 21.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals with a ridiculous 58/44/90 shooting split, Toppin feels confident about their chances against the Cavaliers.

“I just feel like everybody’s locked into winning games,” Toppin said after the Knicks lost their final game of the season to the Indiana Pacers on April 9.

Toppin, Leon Rose’s highest draft pick since becoming Knicks president, showed what he could do when trusted with big minutes, which is hard to come by when Randle is healthy.

Still, Toppin credited New York coach Tom Thibodeau for his coming out party ahead of his second postseason appearance.

“Thibs is a great coach, and he’s just pushing us every day to get better and get to this playoffs,” Toppin said.

Toppin has become a polarizing figure in New York since he was drafted as the eighth overall pick in 2020, well ahead of his closest friend in the team, 25th overall pick Immanuel Quickley, who has already established himself as one of the best, if not the best Sixth Man in the league.

Toppin has lagged behind his draft peers.

His limited role as the ninth man on the rotation when everyone is healthy does not befit his lottery pick status. But such is the case for the former consensus Collegiate National Player of the Year, averaging a meager 6.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 14.4 minutes as the backup of a two-time All-Star.

Obi Toppin’s Expiration Date with Knicks is Nearing

Toppin is expected to return to his limited role when Randle returns from his ankle injury, which could be as early as Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs.

With his tantalizing potential getting buried in New York, ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently claimed that there’s an “expiration date” for Toppin and the Knicks.

“You just sort of know how these things go. Obi’s a high draft pick, a talented young player. At some point, there’s an expiration date on playing two six-minute shifts where you get a couple of threes, and you come out of the game,” Lowe said regarding Obi Toppin’s general role with the Knicks. “There’s just an expiration date on that.”

Toppin is extension-eligible this summer. But there’s no pathway to striking a fair deal for his promising talent with his current limited role.

Julius Randle Eyes Game 1 Return

Randle is progressing toward returning in time for the start of the Knicks-Cavaliers playoff series on Saturday.

On Monday, Hoops Wire’s Sam Amico reported that Randle had penciled Saturday on his calendar as his return date. The news came on the heels of the two-time All-Star forward showing up in the Knicks’ season finale without his protective walking boot — a good sign that he’s on track to recovery.

“Multiple sources have told Hoops Wire that Randle is targeting a return for Game 1. But for now, his status appears to be very much in limbo,” Amico wrote.

Randle sustained a left ankle sprain on March 29 against the Miami Heat. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated on April 13, Thursday, according to SNY’s Ian Begley.

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