Tom Thibodeau endorsed Taj Gibson’s return to the Knicks, even though their third stint together won’t begin until the 12-year NBA veteran clears COVID-19 protocols, likely in the next several days.
The veteran power forward, who was re-signed Thursday after the Knicks had declined his $10 million option in November, also has played for Thibodeau with the Bulls and Timberwolves.
“I think his career speaks for itself and, obviously, he embodies all the things that we believe in,” Thibodeau said before Friday’s 101-89 loss to the Thunder at the Garden. “He was around quite a bit this summer, even though he wasn’t under contract.
“We’re thrilled he’s back with us. It’s invaluable to have that type of leadership, great teammate, team-first guy, hard-working, always ready. Whatever you ask him to do. You can start him, you can bring him off the bench. Or you can just have him waiting for an opportunity, and he handles all of them great.”
Gibson also served as a mentor last season to Mitchell Robinson, who played only 26 minutes Friday. Thibodeau turned to a smaller lineup with the Knicks trailing by as many as 13 points in the second half.
Backup center Nerlens Noel also was available after missing two games with knee and ankle injuries, but he had zero points in 11 minutes. Rookie Obi Toppin (calf) took shots on the court before the game, but the former Dayton star still hasn’t been cleared for contact, Thibodeau said.
The NBA announced plans Friday for a G-League bubble format to take place at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with a preliminary plan to begin play around Feb. 8.
Thibodeau said the Knicks likely will utilize the setup to get playing time for little-used players with Westcheser. Likely candidates are Ignas Brazdeikis, two-way players Jared Harper and Theo Pinson and possibly even Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr.