If you follow me on Twitter or read me closely in The Post, you know one of my pet peeves about Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is the way he deploys key starters deep into the fourth quarter of blowouts.
There are several reasons why this method strikes me as bad form. This isn’t simply about getting the bench some playing time; it’s about sportsmanship, reducing risk of injury, reducing the chance of inciting the other team.
Take last Friday in Orlando, for example. With the Knicks up 24 and only 6:41 left in the game, Julius Randle was inserted back into the lineup. Soon after giggling downcourt after banking in a 3-pointer, Randle stole the ball on the other end, and barreled in looking to dunk on the Magic again. Orlando’s Wendell Carter Jr. took exception and fouled Randle hard, making contact with Randle’s face. Randle hit the deck, got up, pushed Carter and drew a technical.
The kerfuffle didn’t escalate, but Thibodeau’s maneuver did send an implicit message to the Magic and a more explicit one about his level of trust in his bench, specifically about the team’s embattled former 2018 lottery pick Kevin Knox, now considered a third-string “stretch 4.”