When last season began, Taj Gibson was sitting home, an out-of-work and maybe aged- out player without a job.
But he then was brought back to the Knicks to reunite with his longtime coach, Tom Thibodeau. By the postseason, Gibson was in the starting lineup. And when the Knicks open the regular season Wednesday night, he might be the starting center.
Thibodeau said Nerlens Noel did not practice on Sunday after not playing a game in the preseason. He is nursing what the team has called a sore knee but Noel has described as more of a hamstring issue, and he is doubtful to play Wednesday. Mitchell Robinson returned to action in the final preseason game and is expected to be available. It would be his first regular-season game action since March 11, when he suffered a broken right foot.
"Life’s a roller coaster," Gibson said. "That’s why I appreciate just having the vets and appreciating the guys ahead of me all throughout my career. The moment I came into the league, Thibs has always had me in different situations. He’s always prepared me for starting, coming off the bench. He didn’t want me to just be a guy floating. He always told me to have my head on a swivel, always be ready, always be professional and work will handle the rest.
"So I was just coming in, just wanted to play winning basketball. When you play winning basketball and try to help your teammates do the right things, it always comes back around, good things always happen. So I’m just always being myself and good things happen for me."
"We feel like we have good quality depth," Thibodeau said. "This is part of the NBA, you have guys out, and that next guy has to be ready, he’s got to step in and get the job done."
At 36 years old and undersized for the position, Gibson might not seem the ideal opening night starter, but he is a Thibodeau disciple who exemplifies everything the coach demands. And late in his career, he has expanded his game to fit with the new style demanded by analytics. He shot 40% from beyond the arc in the four preseason games.
"I feel comfortable," Gibson said. "That’s kind of the way we practice now. The way practices used to be back in the day, they’re a lot different now. So you have to learn to shoot. But that’s what I do all day every day now is shoot a lot of threes, spot corner threes, mix in workouts with the guards. So you get a lot of reps. And then my teammates, they want me to shoot them more. It’s just up to me to just take them."
Notes & quotes: Thibodeau praised Wayne Selden, who didn’t appear in a preseason game but earned the 15th roster spot. "He had been here all summer and been here in the fall, then training camp and just a lot of the intangibles,’’ Thibodeau said. "He’s got experience. He’s played in the league, he’s a great practice player, and that’s what we were looking for, someone who could help move the group forward. And so he’s been terrific in practice. We felt like it’s another wing in a wing-driven league, so that’s what we were looking for."