Knicks' Tom Thibodeau gives initial thoughts of RJ Barrett, how his system will work in New York


Some Knicks players have been working with coaches for the past six weeks, but they worked in a formal practice setting for the first time on Wednesday.

And new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has liked what he's seen from RJ Barrett so far.

"It's been great," Thibodeau said when asked about Barrett. "Obviously, there's a lot of work to be done. These are the initial steps. The offseason is critical for any young player. So obviously you can get going on the development piece, which I think is critical. That holds true for all our players. But he's been great, eager, he's working hard. If he does that day after day he will improve quite a bit."

Barrett and most of the Knicks were on hand at the first voluntary team practice in Tarrytown. The Knicks and the other seven teams who did not play in the Orlando bubble are allowed to hold voluntary team workouts through Oct. 6. Players and coaches were quarantined for a few days at a hotel in New York before taking the court in Tarrytown.

What was Thibodeau's message to the team on the first day of practice?

"It's about establishing and building the right habits to be successful," he said. "So you're putting in the foundation of an offensive system and a defensive system and how you're going to go about your business," he said. "I think it's all about building the right habits so the team can get better and improve as time goes on."

Thibodeau said that the Knicks had a 'great turnout' for the individual workouts last week. He said some players opted not to participate in the team practices.

"There's contact involved, some guys weren't totally comfortable with that. So we totally understood that part of it," he said.

As SNY reported, Mitchell Robinson will not take part in the voluntary team practices due to a personal issue. Robinson does not have COVID-19, per SNY sources. It's unclear which other Knicks opted out of the team practices.

Barrett, Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox, Bobby Portis, Iggy Brazdeikis, Frank Ntilikina, Julius Randle and Damyean Dotson were among the players who participated, per the team's social media account. Taj Gibson is among the potential Knick free agents who are participating in voluntary team practice in the bubble, as the New York Post first reported.'

Thibodeau was asked about his impressions of Knox.

"Kevin's come in and he's done quite a bit of work," the coach said. "The same thing (as other players); I'm getting to know him and he's getting to know me and it will take some time. But I like what he's done so far."


The Knicks will use the practice time to work on individual skills. It sounds like they won't spend much time inputting new offensive and defensive systems since the roster could turn over significantly this offseason.

Thibodeau was asked about the offensive/defensive systems he'll put in place. He said that it will be based on the club's personnel next year.

"I think a big part of (the system) will be who the personnel is, and then we're gonna play to our strengths and cover up our weaknesses. But the foundation will be the defense, the rebounding, low turnovers and sharing the ball," Thibodeau said. "Offensively, obviously you're trying to get as many easy baskets as you can. You're also trying to get to the free throw line and you're also trying to create as many corner 3's as possible. But whatever the strengths of our club is that is the way we have to play, and whatever gives us the best chance to win on any given night that's playing smart."

Thibodeau said that his systems in Chicago and Minnesota were tailored to the roster.

"You look at the things you think will fit the team and I've had a lot of different teams. There hasn't been one particular team. In Chicago, I had many different versions," Thibodeau said. "Obviously when you have a player like Derrick (Rose) who allows you to do different things, and after he got hurt we had to change and adjust and then we had Joakim (Noah) and Jimmy Butler. Then, of course, Minnesota was different with the personnel that we had there.

"So offensively, we'll build our system more towards what the strengths of our club is and then defensively of course there's things you believe in that you know you have to establish in this league. And that starts with fundamentals on both offense and defense. You have to build your base first. And that's what you want to spend time on.

"Once you build your foundation, then you can determine whether you're going to blitz a pick-and-roll, whether you're going to ice a pick-and-roll, whether you're going to switch a pick-and-roll, and you're probably going to do a version of all three. And so we'll take a look at it. We'll figure out the things that we're really good at. And we'll build that way.

"But right now we're still digging through. We still don't know what the personnel of the club will be and technically this is still part of last year. The offseason really hasn't come yet. We don't know when the beginning of next season, when training camp will be and all that. So we can lock into the player development aspect of it, and that's what we're trying to do."


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