Obi Toppin made eye contact and raised his proper hand as he sprinted towards the basket, and teammate Immanuel Quickley fed him an ideal lob from midcourt for a rattling dunk to energise the Garden crowd within the second quarter of Tuesday evening’s win towards the Lakers.
As Toppin’s minutes have elevated in his second season with the Knicks, these energizing moments even have develop into extra frequent. The 2020 lottery choose’s minutes are as much as 15.3 per sport by way of the crew’s 10-8 begin, and he’s supplied 8.1 factors per look — almost double final year’s output of 4.1 factors per sport.
“I’m just going in the game, knowing that I’ve got to bring a spark or do whatever I’ve got to do to basically bring excitement and bring energy to the team,” Toppin mentioned after follow Wednesday in Tarrytown. “I really feel like once I’m on the ground and I’m working the ground arduous, serving to different folks get pictures or getting straightforward buckets in transition, I really feel like that brings the spirit of our crew up.
“Not only me, but like when people are doing it, hustle plays, diving on the floor, getting 50-50 balls and doing things that’s going to excite the team, I feel like those little plays get our team going.”
Tom Thibodeau hasn’t been shy to make use of his second unit — normally together with some mixture of Quickley, Derrick Rose and Alec Burks — late in video games, particularly if the starters are having an off evening offensively.
With facilities Mitchell Robinson (concussion) and Taj Gibson (groin) sidelined towards the Lakers, the 6-foot-9 Toppin logged 22 minutes, usually in a smaller alignment alongside beginning energy ahead Julius Randle.
“There’s some real positives to it. And I feel last year obviously wasn’t as good because I don’t think Obi was the player that he is today,” Thibodeau mentioned. “And that’s a good sign. In some ways, we’re a lot better offensively. And then in some ways, we lose some of the rim protection. But I think Obi’s growing on defense as well.”
After the Knicks chosen him with the eighth-overall choice within the 2020 draft out of Dayton, Toppin earned solely 11 minutes per sport over 62 appearances off the bench as a rookie.
“I’m not gonna say I got discouraged, just because I knew my time would get there,” the Brooklyn native mentioned. “I by no means present emotion loads. I take it out on the courtroom. … If I’m upset about one thing, run the ground and get a straightforward dunk or one thing, that’s gonna make me really feel higher.
“But I’ve never really showed emotion, like, I’m always the same guy. I have a lot of joy, a lot of excitement for this game, and I love playing in New York.”
The New York followers additionally clearly have taken to Toppin, usually chanting his first identify after considered one of his dunks.
“It’s the energy. He plays with energy all day,” Thibodeau mentioned. “Every time he goes onto the ground, there’s energy. That’s a giant a part of this league, and it’s a expertise.
“Quick’s the same way. The two of those guys give us a big spark. Sometimes it’s not always perfect, but the energy you can count on every game.”
Toppin says he feels the identical approach in regards to the MSG crowd, particularly after a lot of his rookie season was spent taking part in earlier than empty or principally empty arenas as a consequence of COVID-19.
“For sure, it’s New York. We have the best fan base in the world,” Toppin mentioned. “Having an opportunity to play in front of these guys a lot is amazing. So any time we can get the crowd up jumping, and get them screaming, it’s bringing us energy, too.”