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Tom Thibodeau, Doc Rivers have long history and close relationship

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts during the

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts during the first quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on March 15. Credit: Jim McIsaac

PHILADELPHIA — Tom Thibodeau’s relationship with Doc Rivers goes back decades and they earned a championship ring together in Boston when Thibodeau was an assistant to Rivers.

"Yeah, he’s a good friend and we know each other very well," Rivers said. "We were together a long time. We stay in communication. So it’s a great relationship . . . He is one of those guys whose love is basketball. Early on I tried to get him out of the office. And then I realized that would make him unhappy. So let him be."

"We spent a lot of time not only then but after our time together in Boston," Thibodeau said. "I spent a lot of time out with him in L.A. Usually in a normal situation we get together quite often so we're always sharing thoughts, ideas. He's a great friend. We bounce things off each other and that sort of thing. He's been a great influence."

They have not allowed a rift in that relationship as Thibodeau has left Rivers’ son, Austin, out of the rotation after Doc recommended to his son signing with Knicks.

"That’s basketball. I stay out of that," Rivers said. "Tom and I have talked but we haven’t talked about Austin. I don’t call coaches and suggest who they should play, no matter if it’s your son or not. So I stay away from that.

"In this case, Austin is a player on their team, so it’s not my place to comment. That would be like me making comments about other players on other teams, it’s just not the right thing to do. It’s poor form."

Second chance

Immanuel Quickley passed his first test as a starter Monday, scoring 21 points and impressing his coach enough to get a second chance Tuesday in Philadelphia.

The Knicks were still without Elfrid Payton (hamstring) and Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols), so the decision was easier, but Quickley did enough to convince his coach he was up to the task.

Rose’s absence remains something of a mystery. He has been sidelined since he was ruled out March 2 with an inconclusive COVID19 test. While he was allowed to travel home with the team after multiple negative tests, he was out again for the last game of the first half of the season and then has remained out for the first four games of the second half — now two weeks away from the team.

"We don’t have a certain date," Thibodeau said Tuesday. "He’s feeling a lot better. Dr. [Lisa] Callahan and the league [will decide]. There’s protocols that we have to go through. As soon as he can get back on the court, we’ll let everyone know. But you’ve just got to follow the protocol."

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