Surging Obi Toppin keeping trust in Knicks coaching staff when it comes to playing time


Obi Toppin labored through an adjustment period when teammate Derrick Rose went down with an ankle injury, but the Knicks sophomore has come alive of late, even if his team has fallen asleep.

After scoring 18 points and finishing as a +20 in Wednesday night’s blowout loss to the Heat, Toppin is now a +60 over the last six games, and New York has won just one of those contests. Toppin, a +40 over his last two games, is finding his groove during life without Rose, and is making his case for more playing time while many of his teammates continue to struggle.

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“I just trust the work that I’ve put in,” Toppin said. “I’ve been going to the gym and getting extra shots up every day, so I just trust the work.

“I feel like I just know when I get into the game, I have to bring energy. I don’t want to mess up, so when I go in, I play my hardest and play with a lot of energy. The guys, we depend on each other. We all have a job, and we have to go out there and do our job.”

Those extra shots in the gym have helped Toppin’s 3-point stroke, as he has shot 5-for-7 from downtown over his last two games, and is shooting 59 percent from the field and 40 percent from downtown over his last nine games. But he’s still averaging under 14 minutes over that span, leading to voices from all corners of the Knicks fanbase growing louder in their cries for more Toppin.

But Toppin hasn’t heard much of it.

“I’m not really a social media guy,” Toppin said. “I’m not on social media a lot. But Thibs and the coaching staff, they’re great at what they do. I trust them as well as all the other players on the team. We trust the coaches, and whatever decisions they have for us, we have to live with it.

“All these guys, all the coaches, they believe in me and trust in me. I just know what I gotta do when I get out there.”

As Toppin has improved, Julius Randle has continued to regress, and with the starting lineup flatlining once again on Wednesday, many Knicks fans are looking to head coach Tom Thibodeau to make a change to the starting five, including replacing Randle with Toppin.

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That likely won’t happen, but Toppin’s playing time has drastically increased over each of the last three games, and he could continue to see more time as he proves he can be efficient even without his pick-and-roll partner in Rose.

“Derrick is a great player,” Toppin said. “Either way, I know what I have to do when I step on the court. That’s bring energy, screen to get other people open, screen and roll, draw people in. I know what I have to do when I’m out there.”

Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1

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