Analyzing Tom Thibodeau's Answers From His Knicks Introduction

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Knicks fans heard a lot from Tom Thibodeau on Thursday, whether it was in his introductory press conference or other media interviews.

He talked about a lot of things, but here is what really stood out that should give Knicks fans an idea of how he is going to coach and lead the Knicks into the future.

1. What’s The Timetable to Compete?Both Thibodeau and team president Leon Rose were asked about this, and basically said that “we have not set a timeline.” Thibodeau stressed that improving a team is a process that requires different steps, none of which can be skipped. Something else he said in his one on one with Bill Pidto was more telling.

“We can’t fool ourselves. We must confront the facts. Where are we? We were at a -6.54 efficiency, so there’s a lot of work to be done. There has to be a commitment to improve.”

A -6.54 means the Knicks were outscored by about 6.5 points per 100 possessions, which was the fifth-worst mark in the NBA. It is a measure of efficiency on both sides of the ball, so Thibodeau is looking at the right numbers.

In other words, Thibodeau knows the Knicks are bad, and with the current talent on the roster, the team is years away from competing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the team is entering a long-term rebuild.

2. Path to ImprovementThibodeau mentioned four ways for the Knicks to improve. He stressed internal improvement and player development the most, but he also mentioned three other ways to get better: the draft, free agency, and trades. He stressed the team would use all four to improve.

In addition to talking about the young talent on the roster and his relationship with Leon Rose, Thibodeau stressed the Knicks’ stockpile of draft picks and potential cap space as ways to improve the team. In Minnesota, Thibodeau tried to win with young players in his first year before adding veterans to the team. It remains to be seen if he waits a year with the Knicks, or tries to bring in some veterans on multi-year contracts this offseason.

3. Changing with the LeagueThibodeau spoke a lot about how the league has changed, specifically in the frequency that teams are playing four out/one in or five out offensively more. It means teams are playing smaller, with either four or all five players on the floor able to stretch the floor out to the three-point line with their shooting ability.

Thibodeau is someone that has traditionally played two bigs in his lineups, such as when he started Taj Gibson next to Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota. The way he talked about the changing league indicated he might be open to embracing some smaller lineups if he has the personnel to space the floor to allow for more penetration.  

“You never want to stay the same. You want to learn,” he said in reference to his year off and visiting other teams like the Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Celtics and Orlando. How much Thibodeau actually changes won’t be known until he starts coaching games, but he preached being open to new ideas from anyone.

4. The Young PlayersThibodeau did point out RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson as players with bright futures, but otherwise he went out of his way not to comment in detail on the rest of the roster. He said understandably that he wants to speak to and be around the players more before reaching any judgments.

Thibodeau did talk about watching how other teams develop their players, including dedicating a number of younger staff members to the job. Scott Perry stressed that a big focus in filling out the coaching staff will be player development. Thibodeau agreed player development would be a priority.

5. AutonomyScott Perry said Thibodeau will have full autonomy to fill out his coaching staff, but Thibodeau indicated a more collaborative approach where he would sit down with Perry and Rose to go through candidates and pick the best candidates to fill out the staff. Shams Charania previousl