With multiple lineup changes, Knicks still figuring out rotation

Knicks forward Julius Randle drives against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley.
Knicks forward Julius Randle drives against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley.
AP Photo/Nick Cammett

The Knicks have had a different series of lineups this weekend, as they’ve changed their starters and seen unique combinations of players — and that’s opened tons of conversation about the team’s play going forward. 

Head coach Tom Thibodeau made the first significant alteration to the lineup on Friday night, when he put Quentin Grimes on the floor to begin their game against the 76ers in place of Evan Fournier. 

Grimes, the 22-year-old shooting guard, replaced the veteran three-point specialist in Philadelphia, but failed to make much of an impact in the game with just 15 minutes and two points in the contest. 

Still, that matchup saw other new twists to the Knicks rotation, including when Obi Toppin and Julius Randle shared the floor for just over 10 minutes. 

That duo of power forwards, who boast similar skill sets and have traded-off minutes for the past two seasons, joined each other and gave the Knicks a new look against the injured Philadelphia lineup, and outscored the 76ers 29–15. 

They won that game 106–104. 

“I do like it,” said Thibodeau of playing Randle and Toppin together. “I like what it gives us.”

“We play fast, space them on the floor on the offensive end,” said Randle. “The biggest thing is we just have to rebound.” 

Thibodeau, liking what he saw on Friday, decided to play forwards in the lineup for several minutes on Saturday night against the Boston Celtics, along with placing Cam Reddish in the starting lineup for the first time this season. 

Toppin-Randle duo was outscored by 15 while on the court simultaneously — though they still showed flashes of what the pair could achieve together. 

Reddish, meanwhile, faltered in that Saturday night home game, putting up just 4 points in his 37 minutes, and being nearly invisible for long stretches of the contest. 

Meanwhile, fan-favorite combo guard Immanuel Quickley has still not cracked the starting rotation, but has nonetheless averaged nearly 21 minutes on the year. He has averaged 7.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists. 

For the year, 11 different players are averaging double-digit minutes per game.

Now sitting at 4–5 on the season, the weekend of lineup shifts has appeased fans who were searching for new looks from the coach, who has been on NBA sidelines since 1989 — though the experiential nature of Thibodeau’s recent decisions has left more questions than answers about what the team will look like going forward. 

“We’re going to make some mistakes,” the coach said. “No matter what happens, we’re not going to be perfect.”

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