BOSTON — Tom Thibodeau listened to the frustration of Quentin Grimes, and on Friday, he responded.
Not with words but with a lineup change, removing the third-year guard from the starting lineup and replacing him with Donte DiVincenzo as the Knicks readied to face the Boston Celtics.
“He kind of let me know to try to get me a better rhythm, get me in a better flow, try to get me how I was playing last year,” Grimes said of the conversation with Thibodeau. “He felt like it was the best thing to do and I agree with him. It’s a good thing, I’m going to do whatever he needs me to do, really.”
Grimes has struggled this season, and after the one-sided loss to the Bucks on Tuesday, he broke his silence on the subject, voicing his frustration with his limited offensive opportunities in the starting lineup while tasked nightly with guarding the most dangerous perimeter threat on the opposing team.
Grimes took only one shot in that game — missing badly from three-point range — and sat out the entire fourth quarter for the third straight game.
He insisted that he is on board with the change and the chance to get more opportunities playing with the second unit.
“I’m cool with it, doing whatever Thibs needs me to do to help the team win,” Grimes said. “He felt like that was the best thing, so I’m just doing whatever they need from me right now. It might [be better], but like I said, I try to come in and do whatever I had to do to help the team win going into every game, really.”
Thibodeau was vague before the game, refusing to make the announcement despite repeated questions. But multiple sources confirmed the move and Grimes then spoke about it.
“The thing is, both units play well,” Thibodeau said before the game. “They mix and match all the time. So who starts is probably not as important as who finishes. Just whatever we can do to get both groups functioning well, that’s what we’re trying to do . . . It’s a team. It’s not individuals. You have to put the team first. So we’ve got to get both units playing well together.”
When Grimes became a starter early last season, it marked a turning point for the Knicks' fortunes. His defense and shooting provided a complementary piece to the main cogs in the team’s offense — Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. He entered this season with the same job, but his minutes and opportunities have shrunk with the offseason signing of DiVincenzo, who provides a similar skill set.
While Grimes has struggled — he's averaging only 5.8 points and shooting 35.9%, including 34.5% from three-point range — DiVincenzo has smoothly fit. In two starts while Grimes was nursing a sprained left wrist, DiVincenzo shot 14-for-21— including 11-for-18 from beyond the arc — and averaged 19.5 points per game.
Grimes is in a tough spot, He's eligible for a contract extension at the end of this season, but he said he isn’t allowing that to contribute to his struggles.
“Nah, you can’t think like that, too far ahead, because that can mess with your whole mental,” he said. “So I’ve got a support cast around me, my family, to keep me grounded. Just go out there and do whatever I can to help the team win and everything will take care of itself.”
Brunson has maintained that he can do more to help get Grimes touches and keep his confidence high. While the second unit may give Grimes a chance to play a more prominent offensive role and regain his rhythm, the Knicks certainly can use his defense against first-team stars.
“I’ll say this. Donte and Quentin have been great for us all year,” Brunson said. “And so, I’m going to say this, these guys work hard and come in every single day. They do what they gotta do. Sometimes the ball goes in and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes chips may fall your way, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s all about how you respond. I don’t really care for the narrative of this and that. but I do care that we have a good team and we have the right people around us and we stick together whatever the whole narrative of the situation.”