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Knicks’ Obi Toppin, Julius Randle discuss playing together next season

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Obi Toppin’s current offensive surge solely has accentuated the intriguing query — and the clamoring of chanting followers — whether or not the Knicks can discover him extra taking part in time subsequent season, significantly when Julius Randle is wholesome and out there.

If the Knicks stay dedicated to Randle, who will miss his fifth consecutive recreation in Sunday’s season finale towards Toronto as a result of a quad damage, coach Tom Thibodeau’s solely selection is to make use of the 2 energy forwards extra usually collectively in a small-ball alignment.

The defensively minded Thibodeau largely has resisted going with a smaller lineup as a result of he prefers to have a middle on the court docket for rim safety. However Toppin admitted Friday that he and Randle have mentioned taking part in collectively — and the second-year ahead made the case why he believes it may work.

“For positive, me and Jules really talked about it, we undoubtedly really feel in in the present day’s recreation that’s an enormous factor, simply because a variety of groups are taking part in small, a variety of groups need to play quick, shoot 3s, run the ground and simply get out in transition,” Toppin mentioned after scoring a career-high 35 factors in Friday’s win in Washington. “And I really feel like when me and Jules are on the court docket, we’re undoubtedly taking part in much more sooner. Both me or Jules could be within the paint or we will display and roll.

Obi Toppin (left) said he and Julius Randle have discussed playing together in a small-ball lineup.
Obi Toppin (left) mentioned he and Julius Randle have mentioned taking part in collectively in a small-ball lineup.
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“There are such a lot of various things we will do once we’re each on the court docket. However we’ve undoubtedly talked about it and hopefully we’re each again right here subsequent 12 months and we will see that. I really feel like we will undoubtedly do some injury within the league if we’re on the court docket collectively.”

Randle has averaged 36.4 minutes per recreation over the previous two seasons, together with main the league final 12 months at 37.6. Randle and Toppin have been on the court docket collectively in simply 20 of the crew’s video games this season for a complete of 101 minutes.

“I like having a element of with the ability to downsize,” Thibodeau mentioned after Friday’s recreation. “However the factor is, we lose our protection, and so it’s gonna be onerous as a result of when you try this, you’re principally committing to outscoring someone.”

Earlier than beginning the previous 4 video games in Randle’s absence, the 24-year-old Toppin had been afforded simply 15.6 minutes per recreation over his first 67 appearances this season. The 2020 lottery decide is averaging 23.5 factors whereas taking pictures 48.1 % from 3-point vary (13-for-27) over his 4 current begins.

Toppin, the 2021 Slam Dunk champion, has improved his 3-point share to 33.8 % in 29 video games since Jan. 23 after connecting on simply 19.7 of his long-range makes an attempt via his first 42 appearances.

“I simply really feel prefer it’s primarily confidence proper now. That’s one factor I’m actually engaged on after I’m within the fitness center as a result of it opens up a variety of issues for me,” Toppin mentioned. “Earlier than I used to be pondering, ‘Don’t mess up.’ Now I’m pondering shoot first after which go bottom, dribble-handoff with guys and I’m simply taking part in with a special kind of confidence now.”

The Brooklyn native additionally joked that he’s “nonetheless wanting on the bench” for a fast hook after making a mistake, however Thibodeau presently doesn’t have the choice of placing Randle again within the recreation.

“Everybody loves Obi,” Thibodeau mentioned. “We have been all frightened when he received sick [with COVID-19 in December] that he was going to get us all sick as a result of no person provides out extra daps than Obi.

“Daily, the factor that you simply love about him is he walks within the fitness center and he’s received vitality. He walks onto the bus; he’s received vitality. Your crew can feed off that. He jogs my memory, in some methods, not in the way in which they play, however in the way in which they bounce of their perspective is Taj [Gibson]. That was a younger Taj. In the course of winter, he’ll come within the fitness center and that’s what you’d really feel from Obi when he walks within the constructing. You’re like, ‘OK, Obi’s right here.’ You are feeling it.”