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For Knicks' Taj Gibson, Tom Thibodeau was the NBA Coach of the Year

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, back, argues for

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, back, argues for a call with referee Michael Smith in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Denver.  Credit: AP/David Zalubowski

With the news that the NBA coaches had voted Phoenix’s Monty Williams as its coach of the year, Taj Gibson praised Williams but also stated the case for his coach, Tom Thibodeau.

"First things first: Hats off to Monty Williams," Gibson said. "He’s an extremely good coach, well-deserved. He did one hell of a job. He’s been a good coach for a long time. He deserved that for a while. It’s only a matter of time. I was there when Thibs got his first Coach of the Year [in Chicago]. I understood how thrilled he was.

"But to be honest with you, we in the locker room felt he was the coach of the year to us. Coming into New York, hostile environment, trying to build culture, a lot of odds stacked up against you. He never wavered. He’s that type of guy. He loves to go against the odds. Since I’ve known him, since forever, he’s always that guy that comes into the locker room. He’s a tough guy. He always says, ‘We always have enough to win,’ and he rubs off on you. The rest is history. I think in due time he’ll get another chance. He’s a great coach, a great guy, almost like a father figure. So, more importantly, it’s just winning. If we go out there and do what we have to do, I think he’ll forget about it."

Costly comments

The playoffs is often a time for gamesmanship and Hawks coach Nate McMillan started it even before Sunday's Game 1 against the Knicks - admitting Wednesday that he has talked to his team about the league’s desire to have New York in the playoffs. "Absolutely, I’ve talked about that to the team a lot. Basically, I’ve gone as far as saying the league wants this. They need this. New York, this is a big market for the league, and New York has been out of the playoffs for a number of years. And this is a team that our league, they want to see. There’s a huge fan base and they want to see New York in the playoffs. The league wants to see it, everybody wants to see this."

He probably wasn't wrong - the league, particularly after two COVID-19 ravaged seasons, could use the major markets in the spotlight. But the response from the league came Thursday when the NBA announced that McMillan was fined $25,000 for detrimental public comments asserting bias by the NBA relating to the 2020-21 playoffs.

Sold out

The Knicks announced that tickets for Game 1 and 2 - approximately 15,000 for each game - have sold out with 90% of the fans fully vaccinated.

"I hope everyone in sports and entertainment is listening because the public has spoken – they are fine with getting vaccinated and want to get back to the experiences they love," said James Dolan, executive chairman of MSG Sports and executive chairman and CEO of MSG Entertainment. "This overwhelming response by Knicks fans – almost 90% of whom are vaccinated – should silence any doubters. It’s time to start booking events and filling up our schedules, so stay tuned. We want to thank Governor Cuomo for this leap forward; he knew we could do this – not just for us, but for New York."

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