OG Anunoby #8 of the New York Knicks drives against...

OG Anunoby #8 of the New York Knicks drives against Naz Reid #11 of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

While a massive group of tourists crowded into Times Square to ring in the new year with a steady stream of champagne, one newcomer to the city flew in and holed up in a hotel room to study the Knicks’ playbook and terminology and listen in on a gravel-voiced Tom Thibodeau’s welcome call.

It may have been OG Anunoby’s worst New Year’s Eve celebration.

“I didn’t leave my room yesterday,” he said. “I had to do like physicals and stuff, meet with medical people. So I got in last night. Got phone calls and stuff. Looked at some stuff. Then had to go to bed.”

With the trade from Toronto to the Knicks, he had little time to ready himself for Monday’s 3 p.m. tipoff. Without a practice, he introduced himself to his new teammates shortly before game time. But it was a price he was willing to pay. He avoided the hangover afflicting many others and spent his New Year’s Day by getting huge ovations from the welcoming crowd at Madison Square Garden as he helped the Knicks earn a 112-106 win over the Timberwolves, the best team in the Western Conference.

Anunoby was a plus-19 in 35 minutes, scoring 17 points, grabbing six rebounds and doing as credible a job as possible of defending Anthony Edwards and even 7-foot Karl-Anthony Towns before fouling out with 4:12 left.

“Amazing,” said Julius Randle, who benefited from the spacing Anunoby created and scored 39 points. “Seems like the perfect piece that complements our team very well. He does a lot of timely things out there and it was big for us to get that win.”

And it also maybe showed that studying wasn’t necessary because almost everything he did on the floor was based on instinct rather than absorbing the playbook in a night.

“I remember coming onto the court and he was like, ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing, so I’m going to keep cutting,’ ’’ Jalen Brunson said. “I said OK. Like I said, he just naturally plays hard on both sides of the ball. So when he sees something, he just attacks it and it’s just who he is. He’s going to find ways to impact the game, and that’s what he’s done his whole career.”

“For me, that was everything, really,” Anunoby said of playing instinctively. “New terminology, new everything. Just trying to figure out everything as fast as I can, so a lot of read and react.

“It felt good. We won the game. We were up a lot of the game. So it felt good.”

The deal may have come about unexpectedly, but Anunoby had been part of trade rumors for nearly a year. The Knicks inquired at the trade deadline last season and the Trail Blazers nearly moved Damian Lillard for him in the summer.

It’s the business of the league, but even if it’s reality, it’s not an easy one to handle — relocating your life in a moment and learning plays and players in a few hours. And with free agency still possible in the summer, Anunoby can’t quite feel settled as if he has found a home for the rest of his career.

But he likely has. The Knicks weren’t going to package Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett and a valuable pick unless they had a good idea that they were going to sign him to a lucrative contract extension in the summer.

“Oh, I mean, I just got here yesterday,” he said before the game. “I had to find a condo. Honestly, I don’t know. I had to find out where to live. I don’t know anything. I’m just trying to figure it out.”

It’s just one day, but he seemed to make himself right at home — on the Garden floor and in the Knicks’ lineup, not the hotel room.

The Knicks will miss some of the things that Barrett and Quickley provided, but Anunoby just seemed to fit so seamlessly into what Randle and Brunson do that it seemed as if he’d been here for years, or at least had arrived from Villanova.

Even without a day of practice, he just seemed crafted in a lab to fit the exacting specifications of a Thibodeau player — a smart defender with the size and versatility to fit nearly anywhere, an unselfish offensive piece with three-point shooting ability and the instincts to find a seam in the defense.

“The thing is when you make a trade during the season, that’s the challenge,” Thibodeau said. “You don’t want him overthinking things. Just give him a base and a framework and we can add day by day. If you get lost, just play.”

“I just think day by day, each day, I’m going to get better and better,” Anunoby said. “Learning everything. Learning terminology, learning plays, learning sets. I’ll learn every day.”

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