How Will Obi Toppin Get Back Into New York Knicks’ Rotation?

How Will Obi Toppin Get Back Into New York Knicks’ Rotation?

After re-dressing for game day, third-year New York Knick Obi Toppin has been described as “situational.” But what situation would await his return to the park?

Already facing scrutiny of his minutes in his junior campaign … the eighth overall pick was playing just 17 minutes a game before a knee injury layoff on Dec. 7 … Toppin is now dealing with rumors trades that could add to the Knicks’ already loaded first-round draft cabinet. But the immediate concern becomes what the Knicks will do with him in the meantime.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau hinted before Toppin returned to the active roster Wednesday against San Antonio that the team would “advance (Toppin)” in practice before giving him any kind of consistent minutes. But Thibodeau also hinted that he might take his time when it comes to reinserting someone into the nine-man rotation, even if it’s a third-year, top-eight pick.

“We have a nine-man rotation and we can have an injury; we can have foul trouble; we can have illness. It has to be fluid. But the most important thing is that the team plays well, so if the team plays well, we can’t sacrifice it,” Thibodeau said, per SNY. “The team has to come first. Everybody has to sacrifice for the team … for some guys, it’s starting; some guys, it’s the hitting; some guys, they might not be in the rotation. But things can change very quickly. “

As for Thibodeau, the Knicks (22-18) are 10-5 since Toppin left the Dec. 7 win over Atlanta after a collision with Aaron Holiday and are currently on a four-game hitting streak, the longest in the Eastern Conference. His developing rotations at least have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, but any reintroduction of Toppin would be immediately discounted if and when RJ Barrett (sprained finger) can return.

Although previous exiles like Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose have made sporadic appearances in recent New York showings (insertions caused by injuries to Barrett and Jalen Brunson), Cam Reddish remains anchored to the bench. Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims have written Mitchell Robinson in the post, effectively taking minutes away from Toppin.

This, of course, will lend more credence to the idea that Toppin’s days in New York are numbered. The Indiana Pacers have reportedly expressed interest and they have the desired additional prime picks that the Knicks have reportedly desired in pursuit of a true, established superstar. If Toppin doesn’t see an immediate increase in minutes, his status and sanity will remain a question mark as the Association approaches the one-month mark before the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

Meanwhile, Toppin and the Knicks return to Madison Square Garden on Monday when they host the Milwaukee Bucks (7:30 p.m. ET, MSG).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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