The Knicks will get their toughest stint of games going on Wednesday as they will kick off a five-game road trip in which they will visit only one sub-.500 team (today) while facing both squads from Los Angeles sandwiching those matchups with a meeting in the desert against the Suns and a trip-finale at Barclays Center in Brooklyn next Wednesday.
“Take it one day at a time,” Jalen Brunson said about the gauntlet. “Playing some really good teams coming up in some really cool environments.
“We’ve just got to be ready to go.”
Here’s what your superheroes had to say following their last practice in Tarrytown before they flew to Salt Lake City on Tuesday.
Isaiah Hartenstein on Mitch Robinson, playing off the bench
Reserve big man Isaiah Hartenstein told reporters after Monday’s victory over the Raptors that he had talked to Mitchell Robinson last weekend, and that the injured man “Whised me good luck.”
Hartenstein, who saw himself staying put in the second unit with Jericho Sims taking the starting role on Monday, shared more information about Robinson’s status on Tuesday.
“I talked to him,” Hartenstein said. “He’s doing pretty good. He’s kind of—we’re all kind of feeling with him. He was having a great season so far, so we’re all kind of bummed.
“Me and Jericho are just going to keep holding it down.”
Robinson, because of the new anti-load-management rules implemented by the NBA this season, won’t have a chance at winning the Defensive Player of the Year award he seemed to be a very strong candidate to clinch through the first two months of the season.
In a best-case scenario, Robinson would return at around the start of February. Considering he’s played 19 games and there will only be around 30 left on the schedule when the second month of the year gets rolling, Mitch will fail to meet the 65-game minimum for those aiming at winning awards this season.
Hartenstein also said, “It doesn’t matter to me,” referring to not starting games and staying on the bench when the ball is tipped off. “To me, it’s about finishing. I feel like that’s the most important thing. You can have guys start and it’s just like, ‘Oh, yeah, cool. I started.’ The main thing is finishing the game.
“Whatever [Tom Thibodeau] wants me to do.”
Tom Thibodeau, Quentin Grimes on guard’s bench-boosted rebirth
It’s been two games for Quentin Grimes coming off the pine after Thibs demoted him to the second unit following the IST loss to Milwaukee a bit over a week ago. In the last two matchups, Grimes has averaged 16 points hoisting 10+ shots.
Grimes is coming off one of his best games of the year, scoring 19 on Monday while bagging 5-of-7 long-range shots against the Raptors.
“Just touching the ball, you can’t get in a rhythm without touching the ball,” Grimes said. “I’m just out there playing free, really. Everybody sees it, just from me going out there, playing with guys trying to get me open shots. It’s easy and fun playing out with the second unit for sure.”
Grimes seems at peace with Thibs and his decision to bench him. If touches were denied to him as a member of the starting five while available to take advantage of playing with the reserves, so be it.
“It’s just I’m touching the ball more, that’s really all it is. I know I’m going to get my shots up with the second unit, really all it was,” Grimes added. “Just getting in a rhythm, just getting the touches, getting the ball in my hands and getting more comfortable, playing free out there.”
Obviously, that’s gone the other way for his replacement in the starting lineup: Donte DiVincenzo.
The former NBA champ has gone through the growing pains of late, attempting four shots in two games and scoring just nine points in those two matchups combined.
“I’m a basketball player. I’m not worried about [starting or not]. I’m trying to win the game,” DiVincenzo said following the loss to Boston last weekend. “The way the league goes, there’s ways to tend to everybody. I think we did a good job of that.”
DDV acknowledged, “Quentin played his [butt] off” after that game, while Thibs touched on his decision and Grimes in particular after Monday’s victory.
“Quentin’s playing terrific—just playing,” the coach said Tuesday. “He’s aggressive, he’s making real good decisions, he’s shooting when he’s open, he’s making plays when he’s guarded, he’s playing great defense...
“Our whole bench, I’m really pleased with the way they’re playing.”