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Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau wants to build on offseason learning program

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau against the

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau against the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 16, 2018. Credit: Getty Images/Hannah Foslien

The Knicks will finish off their group workouts Wednesday afternoon, but Tom Thibodeau hopes that the offseason learning program will continue.

It will in some way in the short term with the Knicks returning to individual workouts until the October 6 deadline that teams left out of the NBA’s bubble restart were allowed to conduct workouts through. But inheriting a roster that might not be around when the actual season begins, Thibodeau knows there are few certainties in this strange season.

"For us, particularly being a new staff I think it was critical just to get to know the players and players get to know us, and then to put in the base of the offense, base of the defense, to give them an idea of how practice will be run and that sort of thing," Thibodeau said in a Zoom conference call.

"So I think that was invaluable with the understanding that it is unusual. It’s very different than even a lockout season when you take a look at where we are. Currently the NBA Finals are just beginning, so this past season hasn’t even ended yet. I think we’ve had a very good six weeks and we want to make sure that we continue to build upon that."

Thibodeau has stretched out the sessions even with the abbreviated group workouts -- getting players in ahead of the scheduled workout sessions for their own work. And he said that he will continue teaching -- although it may take creative thinking.

"The big thing was for the last six weeks we had a number of players come in," he said. "So the first Phase 1 week we had a great turnout for that. I was very pleased to have the veterans come in. Some of the veterans chose not to participate in Phase 2 – which is the contact part of it. It’s understandable, particularly for the free agents. But I thought our team got a lot out of it. At some point, we’ll go back to what we did during Phase 1, which was we won’t be able to have the contact but we’ll be able to do our player development and also watch film with the players. So we wanted it to be ongoing. We know how important this offseason is for all our players in terms of preparation and development.

"Obviously, we’d have to follow the protocol that’s set forth by the league, but we will have an opportunity to do the individual stuff with guys that are in the bubble up until October 6. Then we’re waiting on what we’ll be able to do with the guys that are out of the market. So whatever the league tells us we can do we will certainly do. And if not, we’ll find other ways to get to our development piece whether it’s through film [or] communications with the players. but we ‘re planning on spending a lot of time with our players this offseason."

Thibodeau did have some words of praise for the players he has gotten to know here, speaking about Julius Randle’s leadership for showing up early before departing recently, and RJ Barrett, who he said had his best practice yet Tuesday.

"Today was his best practice," Thibodeau said. "He was rebounding the ball extremely well, he play-made today, did a great job with that. So I just want him to concentrate on improvement. He’s a young player. Just getting the work part down, that’s the first step. Conditioning, continuing to work on his shooting, there’s a lot of things that he can do well."

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