GREENBURGH, N.Y. — As the Knicks prepared for Wednesday’s season opener in Memphis, key bench pieces Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes were limited in practice, working their way through minor tweaks and still questionable for the game. But while the kids are working their way through it, Derrick Rose said he is completely ready to lead the second unit.
Rose played only 26 games last season, undergoing a surgical procedure to remove bone spurs from his left ankle and going through a second procedure after an infection formed. But 20 pounds lighter, carefully working his way back to health, Rose — who played only 32 minutes in the preseason — said he feels good.
“The process, like I said, I’m ready whenever he needs me,” Rose said of coach Tom Thibodeau. “If I would have played more minutes, I would have been concerned that he didn’t believe in me or looked at my conditioning kind of different. But I think he was more assessing the lineups.
“The first group looked great out there. The second group came in, still got to get used to each other at some point, but it’s nothing to worry about. I like what I’ve seen and I like how I feel out there.”
Rose has been a key to the Knicks’ fortunes since arriving at midseason two years ago, and he still is hugely important. He may not need to rescue the starters the way he did two seasons ago as the team headed to a playoff berth, not with Jalen Brunson now in place as the starting point guard. But with the other pieces still finding their way in the league, he has an important role.
The Knicks have high hopes for Toppin, who they believe has continued to grow his game as he heads into his third season. But Grimes could be even more important, a possible starter at some point this season, and he appeared in only the final preseason game as he worked his way through what the team has called left foot soreness that has troubled him almost since the start of camp.
He went through a full practice Thursday and played in Friday’s game, but after Saturday’s off day, he has been limited in practice the last two days.
“That’s what the trainers are recommending,” Thibodeau said. “So whatever they say, that’s what we’re going to do. It’s early in the season . . . so whatever we have to do, we just want to make sure he’s completely healthy.
“He’s doing all he can. He’s diligent. He’s getting his rehab done and doing correctives and all that. If he’s injured, he won’t be out there. But if he isn’t, he’ll go.”
Grimes said Friday that he had no pain in the foot anymore, adding that the slow approach simply was a measure of caution.
“The idea behind it is to get to the point where it doesn’t reoccur,” Thibodeau said. “So if we have to be a little bit more patient now, that’s what we’ll do. It’s a long season, so get completely healthy. When that happens, then we’ll move forward. There’s no rush.
“He has to get back to a certain level health-wise with what we’re doing. He’s a great worker. We have a lot of confidence in the way he works . . . It’s a well-thought-out plan. Just let it work its course.”