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Knicks vs. Bucks, Part III Round-Up: G Champs, rotations, and disses!

What an extraordinary way to kick off Chirstmas Weekend early!


As Friday came, Friday went. Well, nearly.

Our friend Michael Scotto from HoopsHype decided to warm up the stove ahead of Christmas weekend by dropping his latest installment of NBA rumors content. I won’t detail what he said to much, because our honcho Russell Richardson already gave you everything the minute the story dropped yesterday.

In a sentence: Dejounte Murray is (maybe, in a possible scenario, as rumors have it, only if the Hawks enter serious discussions, among many other things) coming to the New York Knicks!

Fanatics live and die by the rumor mill, so that little story along with another one from Yahoo! Sports’ Jake Fischer and our particular breakdown of the Mitchell Robinson Injury-Stopgap Candidates took all of the attention away from what is coming later (not so later, though!) today: the third matchup between Knicks and Bucks, tip-off at 12:30 pm ET in a delightful Saturday matinee!

Here is what we’re hearing about today’s game, so you don’t feel lost in conversation when you arrive at MSG rushing from delivering some last-minute Santa Claus letters at the mall.

Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks — Part III

The NBA did the Knicks dirty (indirectly, but hey) by placing them in a quarterfinal matchup as part of the new In-Season Tournament earlier this month. That meant the Knicks are playing the Bucks five times instead of the regular four this season.

They are going against Milwaukee for the third time this year today, and they will have another encounter on Christmas kicking off the slate of games for the festive day.

“Each time you play, you learn more,” Tom Thibodeau said Friday after practice. “[The Bucks] are playing at a very high level—one of the most explosive offenses in the league.”

So far, the Knicks are 0-2 against Milwaukee with both games taking place in Wisconsin. They kept things close in the first affair, but the Bucks destroyed them in the IST matchup and sent the Knicks to Boston for another shouldn’t-have-happened game against the Celtics a few days after they crashed out of the NBA Cup.

“When you have a guy like Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and [Damian Lillard] and [Khris] Middleton and they’ve surrounded them with — you add [Brook] Lopez in and all the different weapons. [Cameron] Payne has done a really good job. Bobby Portis,” Thibs mentioned, “They’re deep. Their numbers tell you how good they are.”

Back on Dec. 5, the Bucks dumped 146 points on New York. They shot 60.4% from the floor and somehow an even higher 60.5% from three. The tally: Knicks 43 FGM, Bucks 55; Knicks 7 3PM, Bucks 23. Sheesh.

“We can obviously defend a lot better,” Julius Randle acknowledged following the words of his coach. “Particularly the 3-point [line].”

Finished Randle: “[The Bucks] represent a challenge. We’re up for it. I think we’ll be better.”

Jalen Brunson’s diss gets talked about in Tarrytown

In case you missed it, two-time WNBA champ-coach (among many, many other sublime accolades) Becky Hammon doesn’t think the Knicks have a “1A dude,” let alone think about tiny, unathletic, small, unproven, Jalen Brunson as that type of player.

“He too small,” Hammon said.

For the record, she caught some fire and backtracked. A thing of our times, folks.

Thibs discussed the JB-diss and the whole drama it has generated during the past few hours on his Friday presser. “Anyone who doubts him doesn’t really know him,” Thibs claimed.

“If you really studied him—and look, you got to do it on the floor—every opportunity that he’s gotten, he’s proven things. That probably holds true for most of our players. So just concern yourself with winning. That’s it. Don’t get lost in the noise.

“It’s always going to be something. Too short, too tall, too thin, too strong, too something—forget about all that. Just get ready to win.”

Then, statement and mic drop: “They’re paid for their opinions, so it’s just a bunch of chatter.”

Brunson himself commented on Hammon’s hot take. “I’ve heard things like that all my life,” the point guard said. “It doesn’t really change anything.”

And we’re happy that’s the case, JB, we’re happy that’s the case.

Tom Thibodeau, Julius Randle on Knicks Big-Man Rotation

Speaking about the potential solutions for the depth-ravaged big-man rotation, Thibodeau told reporters a bit about his reasoning for how he’s dealt with it and plans to do so going forward.

Of course, one way or another, the Knicks will have to go through stretches of games downsizing a bit by playing Julius Randle or Josh Hart at the five. It already happened a few days ago in the victory over the Nets.

Will Thibs entertain downsizing his team on purpose? Not if avoidable.

“The thing is, when you’re looking at downsizing, you’re going to give up something,” Thibodeau said. “I think you can do it for a short stretch, but you can’t do it for an extended stretch.

“Everything is on the table and depending upon who [the opponents] have on the floor will really determine who you have on the floor.”

Taj Gibson signed with the Knicks once we heard about Mitchell Robinson’s then-two-months-long absence. He’s now a key member of the team and the rotation with Robinson out for the season and Jericho Sims until New Year.

“[Gibson] has handled this part of his career extremely well,” Thibodeau said. “He’s always stayed in great shape, and I think that for an older player, that’s huge. He’s probably as light as he’s ever been. He’s always been strong and he’s quick and he has great tools defensively and he sees things early.”

Finally, Randle offered his thoughts about his potential use at the five manning the paint as a (very) downsized center if the Knicks need him to play that at times here and there.

“Offensively my role is a little different as a five,” Randle said. “Usually I’m [matched up] against fours, [my job is] to space the floor.

“I’m in a lot more screen-and-roll actions [as a center]. Rolling to the basket, putting pressure on the rim that way—a little bit more responsibility offensively when it comes to that as far as setting screens and stuff like that.”

After the game at Brooklyn earlier this week, Thibs said New York will simply use a “Next man up” mentality. “Just get in there. Julius [Randle] can play center. Josh [Hart] can play center. We got enough.”

Hart hilariously disagrees.

Evan Fournier, not so much.


Ladies and gentlemen, the legend of the Toppin Family keeps growing. What a time to be alive.

Potential Knicks trades (in and out) and other rumors

Again, not losing my mind here because we have plenty of this hot sauce spread all over P&T already.

In a few bullet points:

  • Immanuel Quickley’s contract negotiations with the Knicks led nowhere last October, and Scotto of HoopsHype once more doubled down on his sources telling him that New York simply tried low-ball IQ ($18 million offered, $25 demanded) and is now seriously thinking about moving him before the deadline in a trade as a prime, high-value asset.
  • The Knicks are among several teams who have expressed “exploratory trade interest” in Hawks guard Dejounte Murray, per Scotto.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Knicks are shopping Evan Fournier but nobody is interested. Shocker.

Five-game series against Milly. New York down 0-2 entering Saturday. Knicks in five.