When the Knicks selected Obi Toppin at No. 8 in the NBA Draft, the one thing he brought with him was immediate expectations. He was a mature 22-year-old, unlike most of the inexperienced players arriving in the league.
But while some rookies — including teammate Immanuel Quickley — have had fast starts, Toppin has been waiting and watching. He played 23 minutes on opening night, shooting 3-for-12 and looking overwhelmed by the pace of the game. What was more troubling was that he suffered a strained right calf and had to sit out the next 10 games.
He returned for a token 57-second appearance Wednesday, played 10 minutes Friday and didn’t have a field goal in either game. But in the Knicks’ 105-75 victory over the Celtics on Sunday, Toppin finally showed hints of what the Knicks were expecting when they plucked him with their lottery pick. He scored 12 points and shot 5-for-8, including two three-pointers. He also grabbed five rebounds and had three impressive runs to the rim on feeds from Quickley.
But if it took a little while to meet the expectations of outsiders, including the oddsmakers who made him one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year, Toppin insisted he never heard them.
"I’m not going to lie, I don’t know anything about that stuff at all," he said. "I just go out there and play basketball. I don’t really look into all that betting and all that extra stuff. I just know I’m here to do one thing, and that’s to play basketball, and I’m going to continue to do that."
"He was terrific in training camp and then he gets an injury that he had, it’s not an easy thing to deal with, particularly for a guy who is going through the league for the first time," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "But he’s done a really good job getting himself ready to play again. In each outing, he’s been better and better. And his defense is really coming on. He’s a really gifted offensive player."