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After failing to buy the Mets and with no chance of getting in on James Dolan’s Knicks, Alex Rodriguez is close to becoming co-owner of the league-worst Minnesota Timberwolves.
A-Rod has a 30-day negotiating window to finalize the deal. The one item A-Rod won’t be able to negotiate is bringing Thibodeau with him from New York. That Minnesota ship sailed — and sank — in one of the state’s 10,000 lakes.
The Wolves have one playoff appearance since 2004 — the season Thibodeau led them to the playoffs in 2017-18.
Ironically, the Wolves’ star rookie and No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Edwards, probably wouldn’t mind playing for Thibodeau.
Edwards, the favorite for rookie of the year, was asked Friday about how the Wolves can become a better defensive team.
Unsolicited, he sounded like a sage in citing Thibodeau’s Knicks, flooding them with praise. Yes, the statistics show the massive progression in an area in which their 1970’s title teams and 1990’s glory days were founded upon.
But it’s more significant to hear an impressionable player like Edwards — with no preconceived biases, laud the Knicks the way he did.
“If you give effort, you got great defense,’’ Edwards said. “If you watch New York night in and night out, they don’t have great single defenders. Whatever their defensive game plan is, that’s great. They play great defense as a team at all times. I love watching them play defense. I feel they’re the best defensive team in the league. They play hard. They take you out of your stuff and pressure you.”
Even during the Knicks’ recent 1-5 slide, nobody faulted their defense. In those five losses, the Knicks allowed just 102 points.
Thibodeau may never win one of those NBA coach-of-the-month awards, but it’s not like March winner Nate McMillan of red-hot Atlanta is getting referenced on “Saturday Night Live” — as Thibodeau was this weekend. To be fair, SNL cast members have been fixtures on celebrity row across the years, but this wasn’t payment.
During a parody rap song, called “Weird Little Flute,” Kid Cudi and Pete Davidson versed: “Learning can be difficult … So I practice all like Thibodeau … And the only time that I get real high … Is when I play my piccolo.’’
Utah’s Quin Snyder is not getting that SNL love anytime soon.
“He pushes me every single day,’’ Knicks rookie Obi Toppin said after Sunday’s morning shootaround before the Knicks took on the Raptors at the Garden. “He challenges me every single day to be better, not just offensively but definitely defensively. Defensively, being able to play man but also to know different little things that people don’t see sometimes that can make a big difference on an important defensive play. After practice, I will do a couple extra minutes of defense just working on sliding my feet and game reps that happen in a game.’’
The Knicks’ 133-129 overtime victory over Memphis on Friday wasn’t one of those overall defensive gems, but you don’t come back from 13 points down in the final four minutes without defensive stops.
Before facing the Celtics last week, Boston coach Brad Stevens expressed a sentiment that all opposing coaches have said in some form this season while recognizing the 1990’s Knicks’ grit amid a season that came out of the pandemic blue.
Stevens called the Knicks “sneaky old.”
“Veteran players, tough guys who are physical,’’ Stevens said. “I have great deal of respect the way they’ve played all year. It feels like every game I watch, they set a tone for the game with the physicality they play with.’’
And it all starts with Thibodeau — even if Stevens wouldn’t say his name.
“He’s really similar to Coach Cal,’’ rookie Immanuel Quickley said of John Calipari, his coach at Kentucky. “They preach defense first. They hold everybody accountable. If you’re early, you’re on time. That type of stuff. You appreciate coaches like that, that hold you accountable, pushing you to be great, mentally first and then on the court second.’’
It would be shocking for the Knicks to collapse now, fall out of the play-in tournament and into 11th place — currently occupied by the Raptors. The eighth-place Knicks (26-27) lead the displaced (Tampa Bay) Raptors by five games in the East.
Because their style is built all on defense (they allow the least points in the league at 104.5 per game), it’s not a club prone to a massive slide.
These Knicks are playing beyond their mid-May regular-season finale versus Boston — even if they don’t make the actual playoffs.
There’s a Chinese proverb that fell out of my fortune cookie the other night. It reminded me of what Edwards, wiser than his 19 years, tried to say about Thibodeau’s Knicks: “Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people attain uncommon results.’’
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman