Two important Knicks reserves are heading into the season opener with uncertain statuses.
Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes were both partial participants in Monday’s practice, with coach Tom Thibodeau claiming he’s unsure if either will be available for Wednesday night in Memphis.
Toppin turned his ankle after stepping on a fan in the preseason finale Friday at MSG. The accident occurred while Toppin ran along the sideline, reiterating two things about NBA fans: the expensive seats are really close and players need to be spatially aware.
But Thibodeau characterized Toppin’s ankle injury as minor. Grimes’ issue seems more concerning. At least more confusing.
The defensive-minded wing sat most of preseason with a sore foot, but then returned fully to practice last week and logged 16 scoreless minutes in Friday’s preseason finale. Thibodeau wouldn’t characterize Grimes’ latest update as a setback, but suggested the 22-year-old is still feeling soreness in his left foot.
“The idea behind [Grimes sitting out practice] is to get to the point where it doesn’t reoccur,” Thibodeau said. “So if we have to be a little bit more patient now, that’s what we’ll do. It’s a long season, so get healthy completely. When that happens, then we’ll move forward. There’s no rush. He has to get back to a certain level health-wise with what we’re doing. …It’s a well thought-out plan. Just let it work its course.”
Grimes revealed after Friday’s game that the pain was around his left heel. He was spotted wearing a walking boot earlier in training camp.
“It was a couple days and I was like, ‘Damn, it’ really hurts to walk a little bit,’” Grimes said.
Still, the 22-year-old said he healed and was pain-free immediately after the game. Thibodeau implied Monday that Grimes felt sore later.
“He got to the point where he got to the games,” Thibodeau said. “There’s nothing you can do in practices that can get to the intensity of the actual game. And even the preaseason games aren’t the same as a regular season game. You want him to go through those things, see where he is the next day and then go from there. But this is all part of getting back to playing.”
If Grimes is unavailable, it could open an opportunity for Cam Reddish, who struggled during preseason and hasn’t established Thibodeau’s trust. The coach could also tighten the rotation with more minutes for Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett and/or Immanuel Quickley.
“We’ll see how it unfolds,” Thibodeau said. “We have a lot of confidence in the entire team.”
As far as potentially replacing Toppin, Thibodeau floated playing small with Barrett or Reddish as power forwards.
“We have that flexibility,” he said.
Center Mitchell Robinson earned Thibodeau’s praise as the “surprise” in training camp. It’s an honor made more special by the tough competition, including three other starters – Barrett, Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle – who dominated preseason.
“I’d say the surprise has been Mitch. He’s grown leaps and bounds,” Thibodeau said. “He’s done a terrific job.”
New assistant coach Othella Harrington, who also played for the Knicks in the early 2000s, has helped tap into Robinson’s potential.
“There’s a great connection there,” Thibodeau said. “Mitch deserves a bulk of the credit for making the commitment to work with him. But Othella has been fantastic for him.”