Knicks guard Quentin Grimes drives against Hawks guard Jarrett Culver...

Knicks guard Quentin Grimes drives against Hawks guard Jarrett Culver during the second half of an NBA game on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer

Quentin Grimes was surrounded by reporters after Wednesday night’s Knicks win, recounting his efforts defending Madison Square Garden villain Trae Young and contributing a season-high 23 points, when RJ Barrett spotted him and shouted out, “Tell them what I told you.”

Grimes obediently detailed the conversation — that Barrett told him he wanted 25 points from him on this night. But Grimes, who shot an efficient 8-for-11, including 5-for-7 from three-point range, explained that he passed on the final two points requested because “I had to get my guy Deuce [McBride] a bucket.”

And maybe that tells you why Grimes has become one of the Knicks' most important players. The defense is a given, the specialty that the second-year wing came into the league possessing. The offense has been expected to come on, a steady three-point stroke in his history and a willingness to cut off the ball and find teammates willing to do the same. And the willingness to sacrifice his own points — even when it’s requested by one of the team’s most prominent figures — to make sure his friend gets on the board? It’s the sort of assist handed out by a former high school point guard.

“Yeah he’s been great,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think if you guys recall from last year, he showed us how good he was defensively. And so I think he’ll only get better and better as he gains more knowledge, becomes more familiar with each guy. He studies and he’s just got a knack for it.

“He’s got a tenacity about him. He’s a big multiple-effort guy. Great intensity all the time. The way he plays is the way he practices, so there’s no adjustment for him. Some guys practice half-speed and then there’s a tough adjustment. He doesn’t. He practices full speed, he’s all-out all the time.”

The ascension to the starting lineup for Grimes had seemed a fait accompli from the summer when he took on a key role in Summer League play. But Thibodeau announced the starting job was Evan Fournier’s to lose and it took time, with Grimes battling a foot injury that limited him through training camp, preseason and the start of the regular season. Fournier was moved to the bench and with pain lingering for Grimes, Cam Reddish took a turn as the starter for eight games.

But the job is now in the hands of Grimes, who is the sort of two-way player that Thibodeau has sought for the Knicks. Reddish and Fournier are now trade bait with the Knicks assessing value for them. No deal is imminent, but the rotation, barring an injury, seems set with Grimes as the starter and McBride in the rotation for a third straight game as the Knicks face the Hornets in Charlotte Friday.

“I think we have [picked up the defense],” Grimes said. “Just clicking rotation-wise, who goes into the game and attacking the game plan and not veering off. Right now I think we’re doing a good job attacking the game plan."

Toppin's injury. Obi Toppin sustained a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula head during Wednesday night’s game against Atlanta. He will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks.

--