Tom Thibodeau warns ‘more changes coming’ if Knicks’ losing persists

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is not ready to make a Kemba Walker reversal, but said he won’t hesitate to make more changes if the losing continues.

Among other factors, Thibodeau said he doesn’t have “a big enough sample size.”

“If we’re not performing well, look, there may be more changes coming,” Thibodeau said. “I want to make sure that — I do have respect for [Walker]. He’s part of the team and right now we have a rotation. He’s not in the rotation but he’s working in practice, he’s doing all the things he should be doing. As I mentioned before when I made that decision, I view Kemba as a starter.’’

Following the hideous 114-99 Garden rout by the Nuggets on Saturday, Thibodeau said there are two factors he looks at regarding decision-making: “Is the intensity part right? Is the execution part right?”

Thibodeau said if those items are adequate and the club still isn’t winning, “then you change.’’

Tom Thibodeau warned of more changes if the Knicks don’t start winning.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Because of their spate of turnovers and a defensive malaise (ranked 26th in defensive efficiency), Thibodeau isn’t happy with either category. Hence, the coach carries on now without Walker.

Web Search Engine

Thibodeau’s tardiness to Saturday’s postgame press conference after falling behind by 30 points to Denver likely was due to owner James Dolan, who has returned to his customary baseline seat by the Knicks bench this season after not being close to the players last season because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Knicks’ eccentric chief has a history of meeting with Knicks head coaches after games, especially bad losses. The Knicks owner may have sought knowledge about “The Kemba Decision.’’

Knicks president Leon Rose’s two offseason free-agent acquisitions haven’t panned out — particularly Walker, who was yanked from the rotation after 20 games.

Starting shooting guard Evan Fournier is also off to a shaky start and was seen arguing with Julius Randle at halftime of the debacle against the Bulls on Thursday.

The Knicks are 0-3 since the Walker maneuver. The head coach has refused to put Walker in when shorthanded or during garbage time.

The latest tailspin has dropped the Knicks below .500 at 11-12 and has them in 11th place in the Eastern Conference — out of the expanded postseason. Considering Rose had the most cap room in the league in August, this regression is alarming. Rose has no cap space for 2022.

“You always have decisions to make,’’ Thibodeau said. “If a decision’s not right, then you make another decision. You gather the information, study it and you look at it objectively.’’

James Dolan sat in his usual baseline seat for the Knicks’ 113-99 loss to the Nuggets.
Robert Sabo

That Thibodeau was so quick with the Walker hook makes you wonder about his enthusiasm when the Knicks signed the Bronx native to a two-year, $18 million contract in August after facilitating his buyout from Oklahoma City. Thibodeau likes big point guards and said that spurred Walker’s removal from the landscape.

The Post has learned the Knicks’ enlarged analytics department was influential in encouraging the Walker signing. Walker’s traditional numbers last year with the Celtics were OK (19.3 points, 4.9 assists, 36 percent from 3-point range) despite playing only 43 games because of an arthritic left knee.

Last season, Walker’s pick-and-roll efficiency, isolation efficiency and pull-up shooting numbers were all his worst marks of the past five seasons, according to, so it’s surprising analytics executives pushed for the Walker signing.

This season, Walker’s 3-point percentage was excellent but his efficiency brutal, as his minus-122 demonstrated. Walker also carried a league-worst defensive rating among rotations players.

“They felt they needed to make a splash [at point guard],’’ said one NBA personnel man familiar with the Knicks’ thinking. “He can still shoot it. He just needs limited minutes.”

Now Walker isn’t getting any. It’s rare for a player — let alone a four-time All-Star — to go from starter to zero minutes.

Thibodeau actually did the same thing in the playoffs last spring against Atlanta when he yanked season-long starter Elfrid Payton for Game 3. Payton did not play for three straight games and the Knicks were blown out in each contest.

“If you’re going to change a rotation, you want to make sure you’re looking at it, not one game,’’ Thibodeau said. “You’re looking at it in totality.’’

During the win in Atlanta on Nov. 27, when Walker rested his knee on the second night of a back-to-back, the Knicks played gorgeously with Alec Burks making his first-ever start at point guard.

In retrospect, the Hawks had lost their sniper Bogdan Bogdanovic early in the game to an ankle injury and Atlanta missed a ton of open 3-pointers.

Some scouts contend Julius Randle’s defense has been worse than Walker’s and his play was a prime reason the original starting lineup fared poorly.

The Knicks are 0-3 since Kemba Walker was removed from the rotation.
Robert Sabo

While RJ Barrett and Fournier have stopped short of fully endorsing the Walker removal, Randle sounded enthusiastic about the change.

Maybe that’s why Randle finally pointed the finger at himself Saturday after the latest debacle when his sluggish defense was on display again.

Randle issued a call-to-arms proclamation that the team “got to look in the mirror’’ and realize defense drove the Knicks to their 41-31 renaissance season of 2020-21.

“I’ll take responsibility from the team,’’ Randle said. “I’ll take responsibility for myself.”

The Knicks are coming off a brutal seven-game gauntlet but Tuesday’s game in San Antonio (8-13) starts a three-game road trip against sub-.500 clubs. Indiana and Toronto also await.

“We’re in a funk right now,’’ Randle said. “It’s hard, it’s tough, it’s not fun. But we have the ability and the power to change it. And it’s really going to be up to us if we want to.’’

Artmotion U.S.A

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button