Tom Thibodeau was asked who he would start with when point guard Elfrid Payton (hamstring) returns from his hamstring injury. That is now the least of your problems.
Following his media availability before Tuesday’s game in San Antonio, the Knicks announced that recent starter Derrick Rose is out of COVID-19 health and safety protocols. It was not immediately clear if he had tested positive or was in close contact with a person with COVID-19.
That could mean Rose will be out until after the All-Star break. The Knicks end the first half Thursday against Detroit.
Rose was due to start her fourth game in a row on Tuesday, but generally all protocols take a week, especially if she was in contact with someone with COVID-19.
“Basically I decide what’s best for the team,” Thibodeau said when asked who would be the future starter when everyone is healthy.
Frank Ntilikina had the opening against the Spurs, and Austin Rivers, who had been banished from the rotation, was ready to finally enter a game as a backup.
Thibodeau finally addressed why he often refuses to treat garbage time as garbage time and sticks with his best players in the fourth quarter of blowouts.
“That’s just a read on the game, what’s going on,” Thibodeau said. “The way people can make up ground with 3s, no lead is safe.”
Julius Randle, a first-time All-Star player, played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter in Sunday’s beating of Detroit.
Nerlens Noel, the Knicks’ only true center, played the final nine minutes on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Knicks led by 19 or more points the entire quarter in Detroit, except when they fell to 17 with 55 seconds left.
When told that the lead seemed very secure against the worst team in the East, Thibodeau said: “I have a lot of confidence in our bench, but we are also trying to find a rhythm with the guys we have out and we have different groups playing. There are a lot of things that come into play and those are just training decisions. ”
Freshman coach Steve Nash won the NBA coach of the month title in February by leading the Nets to a 9-4 record. Erik Spoelstra and Mike Budenholzer got votes. Thibodeau was shut out after going 9-5 last month turning around a franchise that had been horrible for seven straight seasons.
“I never look at those things, so for me the focus should be on the team,” Thibodeau said. “Steve has done a great job, happy for him. Great coach, great person. And they are having a great year. So congratulations to him. I want my attention to focus on what we have to do the next day. ”
In August, legendary Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told The Post that Thibodeau was “a seasoned veteran who goes without saying that he understands what he wins and what he loses. He knows how to put together a program, create a culture, be demanding. ”
Popovich has proven to be clairvoyant with the Knicks’ 18-17 record coming in on Tuesday.
“Par from the field, no wonder,” Popovich said before facing the Knicks. “He has standards, he holds everyone accountable, he sticks to them. And you see the results. He’s doing a good job. ”