October 28, 2020

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Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau looks forward to Mitchell Robinson development, reflects on Pat Riley influence

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Tom Thibodeau seems like a big Mitchell Robinson fan. On Friday, Thibodeau was asked about...

Tom Thibodeau seems like a big Mitchell Robinson fan.

On Friday, Thibodeau was asked about his impressions of Robinson.

Here’s what he said about the Knicks’ third-year center:

“What he did last year was put a lot of pressure on the rim,” Thibodeau said. “He’s an incredible athlete. But we don’t want to put a ceiling on him. We want to continue to work on all aspects of his game and develop.

“He spent some time here (in New York) earlier in the summer and we’re hopeful that, you know, we can get him back in and get to work with him so he can build on those skills.”

Robinson won’t be part of the Knicks’ voluntary team workouts in the bubble. He’s missing the sessions due to personal reasons. But Robinson was in New York for individual workouts earlier this month and worked with the coaching staff over the summer.

In the past, the Knicks have sent coaches to Robinson’s hometown to work with him. It’s logical to think that they will do that again in the offseason.

Regardless of the moves the Knicks make this offseason, it’s clear that it would take a monumental return for them to consider trading him.

“Obviously, he’s a very important part of this team,” Thibodeau said.

Knicks will add more coaches

Thibodeau and the Knicks have hired Johnnie Bryant, Kenny Payne, Mike Woodson and Andy Greer as assistants. They’ve added Dice Yoshimoto as an assistant to the head coach. Thibodeau said the club plans to add more coaches to the staff.

“We do have a few other guys we’ll be adding along the way,” Thibodeau said. “So we just we have to be patient and work our way through that. But I’m thrilled with the staff we do have.”

SNY reported that the Knicks plan to hire a separate set of development coaches.

Thibodeau was probably referring to the development staff in his comments on Friday.

Thibodeau had this to say about his current assistants on Friday:

“We have a number of coaches who are terrific teachers and that was critical for me,” Thibodeau said. “We’re talking about a Johnnie Bryant, a Kenny Payne, a Woodson, an Andy Greer — they’re going to be involved in all aspects in the organizations in terms of game-planning, player development, their ideas, their thoughts. We have a lot of work to do and all of them have had great experiences, so I’m excited about that part of that.”

Riley ‘at the top’ of Thibodeau’s list

Thibodeau coached in New York under Jeff Van Gundy. Van Gundy coached under Pat Riley.

Thibodeau on Friday said Riley has played a big role in influencing his coaching.

“He was so far ahead of this time (in New York),” Thibodeau said of Riley. “Jeff carried over a lot of those things (when he coached the Knicks) and also added some other things that he picked up along the way. And so, you know, I have great respect for that.

“And the fact that Pat did it in LA. He won championships there and then you know he got the Knicks to the doorstep and then, of course, to do it several times in Miami.

“He’s rebuilt the organization three or four times, you know. He’s at the top of my list. He’s been great to me over the years, and I’ve taken a lot of things that he’s said to me, I’ve watched their organization very closely. You know, you understand what their core values are. And I’m happy for him.”

Riley and the Heat are one win away from the NBA Finals. They’re led by Jimmy Butler, a player Thibodeau developed into a young star in Chicago.

“I’m thrilled for him. It’s a great story,” Thibodeau said. “It’s a guy who was drafted 30th. And made himself better each and every year and continues to do so. Even now as an established all-star, he still works incredibly hard. He plays very unselfishly. He plays to win. He’s not about statistics.

“I knew that from the start with him. I never envisioned him being this good. I always thought he’d be a good player. But he’s made himself into a superstar because of his intelligence, talent and work ethic. Obviously he’s learned a ton in his career. He’s a guy who constantly studies and brings out the best in himself and best in his teammates.”

Thibodeau traded for Butler when he was president/coach of the Timberwolves. Butler’s approach reportedly rubbed Minnesota’s young stars the wrong way. After helping lead the Timberwolves to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, Butler demanded a trade.

Thibodeau said on Friday that Butler’s success in Miami doesn’t lead him to think about what could have happened in Minnesota if it worked out. Thibodeau was fired by the Timberwolves, sat out the next season and then was hired as Knicks coach in August.

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