Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau explains why Evan Fournier, Quentin Grimes were out of the rotation vs. Jazz

Evan Fournier running solo close up blue jersey

Evan Fournier running solo close up blue jersey

Tuesday’s win over the Utah Jazz was a big one for the Knicks. They started their five-game West Coast road trip on a high note, and showed a lot of improvements on both ends of the floor.

While it was Jalen Brunson and a balanced attack that helped the Knicks pull out the victory, many noticed a shorter rotation for coach Tom Thibodeau and his team.

The third-year coach for New York has often gone to a 10-man rotation in games this season. Tuesday night, he went with just nine. And Evan Fournier and Quentin Grimes were not a part of it.

“We wanted to see what it would look like,” Thibodeau said of the shorter rotation after the game. “And it gave us, I thought, better rhythm. That’s why we did it.”

The Knicks were struggling to be consistent on both offense and defense, and if they wanted to improve on their 37-45 record from a season ago, they had to change things up.

Tuesday against the Jazz was clearly a testing ground for this new rotation philosophy and it worked, at least for this game. Thibodeau felt it was best to give more time to bench guys like Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin while also increasing the minutes of Cam Reddish, who started Tuesday. What resulted was six Knicks scoring in double-digits, and a fourth-quarter comeback that helped New York hand the Jazz their first loss in Utah.

“I thought that that group played really well and so there was good activity with it,” Thibodeau said of his rotation that started the fourth-quarter. “I think there’s stretches where you have Derrick [Rose], Quick, Cam and then it’s Derrick, Quick, RJ. And then I thought Obi really played well. I mean really well and so I love the production that we got …and I thought it brought the best out of everyone.”

It’s unclear whether this will be the rotation moving forward or if Thibodeau will increase the number again. But it does leave Fournier and Grimes in weird spots on the team.

Fournier, 30, has been relegated to a bench role and has found it difficult to find his rhythm on this team. That was apparent against the Thunder on Sunday when he scored zero points in 20 minutes on the floor. In fact, he hasn’t scored in double-digits since the team’s Oct. 30 matchup against the Cavaliers, seven games ago.

Grimes, 22, who is returning from a foot injury, has played in just five games this season and Thibodeau has been cautious with his minutes. However, he’s played about eight minutes in the team’s last two games but has only scored five points total.

Although both players have contributed to this team in the past, it seems they have gone out of favor, at least for now. When asked again about the rotation size, Thibodeau doubled down on his reasoning.

“Just the rhythm of it, you know, it’s sort of like you’re learning your team, what works best,” he said. “Are our guys able to get in a rhythm? Those are the questions you ask and so that’s why we did it.”

The rotation will be something to keep an eye on moving forward, and fans will see it again Wednesday when the Knicks take on the Nuggets in Denver.

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