While Obi Toppin has slowly begun to accumulate the sort of highlight dunks and athletic moves to the rim that made him the NCAA Player of the Year and the No. 8 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, it was the shots he misfired on Saturday that drew the attention of Derrick Rose.
Toppin attempted a pair of three-point field goals in the first half and misfired badly on both, so the newcomer to the Knicks’ locker room offered some veteran advice from someone who has been dared to shoot by opponents.
"I’ve been a fan of his ever since college," Rose said Monday before the Knicks hosted the Atlanta Hawks. "So having a chance to play with him, that young energy. I don’t know why he’s always in the right spot at the right time. If anything, I could look to him for more lobs.
"But he’s open. Last game, I think he missed two wide-open jumpers. I told him at halftime to take his time with his shot. They’re going to give him four or five seconds to shoot.
"I was playing around with him, telling him he was in my category with shooters — they’re going to see if you’re going to knock one down. And once you’re capable of showing that, they’re going to have to run out there. And with him being athletic, the game will come easy for him. The more he plays, the more the game is going to slow down. And I think he’s a special talent."
Toppin has shot just 9-for-34 from three-point range this season (26.5%). But because he is being left open for those shots, he has taken only 11 fewer three-pointers than shots from inside the arc (45), where he has shot 64.4%.
"[Rose] always jokes with me; he says every time he gets a three-point shot, he has at least three or four seconds to get the shot off, and same with me," Toppin said. "So I’ve got to prove myself at the three-point line. We’re working on that every single day.
"Derrick’s a great guy. We talk every single day, and even when we’re on the court and in the fire, he’s talking to me, helping me every step of the way.
"I feel like because he is who he is on the court, he has that fire, he has that drive and he wants to help all of us, like me and [Immanuel Quickley] especially. Us being the rookies, he’s helping us every chance he can on the court. When he’s on the court, we know what we have to do to be successful."
It is the almost unspoken part of the acquisition of Rose, who arrived with the worries that as a favorite of coach Tom Thibodeau, he could get in the way of the Knicks’ youth movement.
Rose won an MVP award playing for Thibodeau with Chicago at age 22 and had a career resurgence off the bench in Minnesota under Thibodeau. He’s not only a player familiar to the coach but one who can preach it in the locker room.
For Toppin, that began on the first night Rose arrived when he sat down with the two rookies at dinner.
"He was first talking to Coach," Toppin said. "When he was done talking to Coach, he saw me and Quick sitting next to each other eating. He came to the table and was talking to us about how everything was going to go. Basically helping us and telling us what we need to do to be successful.
"Ever since that day, he’s been talking to us every single day making sure we’re getting better and learning every step of the way."