Knicks' Tom Thibodeau Feels 'Very Strongly' About Randle, Barrett, Robinson

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2021

New York Knicks Tom Thibodeau questions a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

On Tuesday, Yaron Weitzman of the New York Post reported that New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau initially was "hardly sold" on Julius Randle and "thought RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson could potentially be flipped for seasoned veterans."

On Wednesday, Thibodeau was asked about the report and offered the following response, per Alex Smith of SNY:

"When you come in and take a job -- Leon (Rose) and (William Wesley) have done an unbelievable job and how we were going to go about our business. We looked at and studied the team, played out the pros and cons on everything we could do. We're very pleased. And I feel very strong about all three of those guys. I've made that clear all along. I haven't seen the article so I can't comment on it. I know I feel very strongly about those three players."

Thibodeau's feelings reportedly changed fairly quickly on Randle. Per Weitzman, Thibs was impressed with Randle when he first worked with him during a September minicamp.

"He's a pro's pro. He's in great shape," the head coach said at the time. "He's willing to work and do anything that you ask. Having that type of leadership is important for our team."

Randle, of course, has been fantastic this season. The 26-year-old was a first-time All-Star this season, averaging 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists while shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from three.

The 20-year-old Barrett has shown signs of improvement as well, even if he remains somewhat inconsistent, averaging 16.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. And before Robinson fractured his hand, he was averaging 8.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, anchoring New York's impressive defense.

The duo of Randle and Barrett, alongside the surprising rookie season of Immanuel Quickley, has propelled the Knicks to a 19-18 record, currently placing them fifth in the Eastern Conference. While a tougher schedule awaits in the second half of the season—and teams like the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers seem likely to improve as the year wears on, potentially leapfrogging New York—the Knicks, for the first time in a long time, have legitimate playoff aspirations.

As for whether the team would make further acquisitions after bringing aboard veteran point guard Derrick Rose, Thibodeau said he would leave that up to the front office.

"That's a Leon question," he said. "Look, I have a strong bias towards good players. I know they're looking at all the possibilities. If something makes sense for us, we'll do it. If not, I love the team that we have. I love the guys that we have on the team. We'll just keep working with what we have and Leon and Wes, they're combing the league, Scott Perry, that's their job."