Rubio, who played for Thibodeau for one year in Minnesota during the 2016-17 season, can attest to the current New York Knicks coach’s evolution as a coach.
“When I played for him, he was that defensive coach, but he had a lot of good offense out there too as well,” Rubio said on the eve of the first-round series between his team, Cleveland Cavaliers and Thibodeau’s Knicks.
Under Thibodeau’s watch, the Timberwolves had a top-10 offense during his first season, and Rubio’s only season under him before he was traded to the Utah Jazz.
Rubio averaged 11.1 points and a career-high 9.1 assists during his lone season under Thibodeau, who sought a point guard with a different skill set.
The following year, the Timberwolves ended a 14-year playoff drought with a top-4 offense.
So Rubio is not surprised by the way Knicks have transformed under Thibodeau.
“I think he’s a complete coach,” Rubio said. “You can tell now with the Knicks. He’s been doing a great job. I know he wants to play defense, play hard defense, but the offense is working. And he learned, of course, like everybody else in the league, he learned through the years how to be better.”
Thibodeau has molded the Knicks into an offensive juggernaut, tied for third in offense with the Philadelphia 76ers, entering the playoffs.
Rubio is no longer a starting point guard but playing against his former coach, who saw him as not a good fit, can always light up a fire under his belly, like when he dropped a career-high 37 points against Thibodeau’s Knicks in 2021 before he tore his ACL.
“He yells, but I hope the [Cleveland] crowd yells more so we don’t hear [him],” Rubio said in jest.
Julius Randle to Test His Ankle Before Game 1 Tip-Off
The New York Knicks have listed Julius Randle as questionable to play in the series opener. But ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Randle, who sustained a left ankle sprain on March 29 against Miami Heat, is still hopeful he can play.
“Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle (left ankle sprain) is targeting a return vs. the Cavaliers on Saturday. Randle has been steadily improving and plans to test his left ankle prior to gametime before making a final decision on the rejoining lineup for Game 1,” Wojnarowski reported.
Josh Hart Is Excited to Make Playoffs Debut
Knicks’ midseason acquisition Josh Hart could not wait to make his playoff debut.
“[I’m] extremely excited. I wish Saturday was coming a little sooner, but [I’m] just super excited with the guys that we have in the locker room with the coaching staff, the front office, and that we have a great group of men here, and we’re excited, we’re focused, and we’ll continue to get ready,” Hart said.
The seven-year veteran has galvanized the Knicks bench since he arrived at the trade deadline. They strung up nine straight wins when he joined the team and wound up with a 17-8 record to book the fifth seed in the East.