Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau sees Kevin Knox, Obi Toppin step up in Julius Randle’s absence: ‘We need everyone’


Kevin Knox attempts to block Spencer Dinwiddie

Without Julius Randle, Kevin Knox and Obi Toppin took advantage of their increased playing time in the Knicks’ 117-99 preseason win over the Wizards.

They evidently impressed New York head coach Tom Thibodeau, who discussed each’s impact after Saturday’s game at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.

“We talked about the importance of everyone being ready and understanding, ‘OK, who needs to do their job?'” Thibodeau said. “And so, if you’re not in the rotation, your job is to work every day prepare yourself when the opportunity comes. And over the course of the season, everyone will get the opportunity.

“And I thought — I watch Kevin every day, I watch Obi, I see the way they work. So Obi’s role changed to being a starter, playing more, and he handled it perfectly because of his preparation. It gave him a lot of confidence. Kevin — the same thing could be said. He works incredibly hard. I think he’s improved. Now he got into the rotation and that’s what we had.

“We need everyone. It’s a team. It’s a team sport. So everyone’s role is important. Everyone’s an important part of this team. We practice. If your not in the rotation, you have to be great in practice — not good in practice, great in practice — so our team can improve. And then when you’re called upon, go in and get the job done. So I was proud of that. When they went in, they were ready to go.”

Off the bench, Knox provided a spark, dropping 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting — a 4-for-6 clip from behind the three-point arc — while grabbing six rebounds and logging 20 minutes.

Toppin started, logged 28 minutes and scored 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting — including 2 for 6 three-pointers — with eight rebounds.

“Really good,” Thibodeau said of Toppin. “Like, he’s worked extremely hard. And not the just the offense plays — I thought he had some really good defensive plays. … We talked about his offensive improvement, which is has improved, but the defense has gotten better. And that’s important for us.

“And when he’s on the floor, the team functions well. He moves the ball side to side probably as well as anyone on our team.”

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