For three seasons in New York, Taj Gibson has been a constant—veteran captain and stretch of coach.
He defied the odds to become the Knicks’ starting center not once, but twice, including in his only franchise postseason appearances over the past decade. The Brooklynite signed three contracts, all one-year deals, and fulfilled the dream of playing for his hometown team.
“Like anything in life, there are a lot of highs and a lot of lows,” Gibson, who is now a backup center with the Wizards, told the Daily News. “But it was a great time. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was able to put the orange and blue, to represent the city. Kind of change things around. I was able to say I had a playoff run with the Knicks.”
In fact, Gibson was a contributor to the 2021 playoffs, starting three of the five games against the Hawks because Mitchell Robinson and Nerlence Noel had a blast.
This run lengthened Gibson’s career. Earlier in the season — when Gibson was coming off a pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season — he made it to free agency without a team. As a player in his mid-30s, Gibson may never have played again in the NBA if the Knicks hadn’t picked him up in the middle of the season.
“Management has been great to me. [Knicks president Leon Rose] And these guys, these guys are like family,” said Gibson. “Leon didn’t have to give me a second chance after the year we had before he came along. He came and gave me another shot. Especially at my age, and most veterans don’t get picked. I owe Leon the world for giving me a chance to experience the Playoff atmosphere in the garden.”
He has since helped Gibson develop a minimum 3-point shot threat, which he tied for 40% last season. Despite struggling with the Wizards while hitting only 21% of his threes prior to Wednesday, Gibson showed the potential by winning a 3-point team contest during the morning shootout at MSG.
Gibson said he “had a chance” to re-sign with the Knicks, who signed three other centers—Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims—to contracts in the summer.
“I still watch most of their games, and I’m still in contact with most of the coaching staff,” said Gibson. “I see a lot of improvement. A lot of growth. I wish them well.”
Two days after taking over the referee in Sunday’s loss to the RaptorsCoach Tom Thibodeau suddenly about Zen in the situation.
“I don’t want to go backwards. It was the way the game went. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t. You just move forward,” said Thibodeau.
Right after Sunday’s game, Thibodeau noted, among other things, “It was hard to tell what was wrong.” But then the NBA ruled in its monitoring report that the referees had committed no fouls in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime.
That included a no-call on RJ Barrett’s game dunk with 0.6 seconds left in regulation, when he was hit on the arm by Raptors forward Scotty Barnes. The NBA determined that “Barnes makes contact with the top of Barrett’s arm during a dunk [but] It does not affect speed, speed, balance and/or rhythm [Barrett’s] shooting.”
“The official should use his judgment,” Thibodeau added Wednesday. This is probably a 45-50 percent call that could go either way. When they say peripheral connection, that’s what they think. If that’s what they thought, then that’s what they thought.”
Faced with a question about his rising Big-3 playing time for Julius Randle, Galen Bronson W Barrett, Thibodeau called the media “the minute police” and discredited the premise that he disproportionately fatigued his players.
“I know you guys love creating your own storytelling and you don’t look at it in its entirety – I don’t think we’ve got anyone in the top 20 GPM [per game]Thibodeau said. “So, it is what it is. I think you look at the people in your division and at your conference. You look at the way their guys play. You often think about the encounters that will go into the game. When that guy’s on the floor, we’re going to match that guy up with him.” That’s what you do. Most teams have eight players in a rotation, some have seven. So I like the nine, I like where it’s at, I like the rhythm. If you look at the numbers, you’d have to say it’s OK.”
As Thibodeau pointed out, the Knicks don’t have an individual player in the top 20 with RPMs per game over the entire season. However, in the last 14 games before Wednesday, Randle leads the NBA in minutes per game with an average of 40.1. Bronson is the third.
“I know you guys are the minute police and all that bullshit. But you also have to look at Toronto played seven men [on Sunday]Thibodeau said. “If they have their upstarts there, that’s what they do.”