NCAA Tournament, Knicks, Nets, Rose

Reckless of Knicks to play Brunson too soon

Tom Thibodeau is a win at all costs as head coach.

The Knicks' head coach will play his starters for 48 minutes, even when the game is out of hand and whether his team is winning or losing. When his teams lose, he wants them to lose by a close margin to show that they competed hard. When they win, he wants to win big to show that this team never slacks.

Here is an example: As the Chicago Bulls' head coach on Game 1 of the Bulls’ 103-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2012 first-round playoff series, Thibodeau managed to play Derrick Rose despite the game being out of hand with the Bulls leading by 12 with 1:20 left. That was when Rose crumbled to the ground after he drove to the lane in a layup attempt. Rose tore his ACL, and he was never the same player again. That reckless decision likely cost Thibodeau his job as head coach a few years later.

 There seems to be some similarities to that when Knicks' point guard Jalen Brunson left the game against the Sacramento Kings last week when he reaggravated the knee injury before halftime. He was coming off tweaking his right ankle in a game against the Miami Heat on March 3 that had him out for several games.

There was no reason for Thibodeau to rush Brunson back this soon. It’s not like the Knicks are fighting for a playoff spot. They likely will be in. Sure, Thibodeau would like the Knicks to get a high seed that could give them a home-court advantage in the first round. He also has dreams of winning the division, but at what cost? To lose Brunson hurts the team even more.

Brunson did not play for the second straight game since he reinjured his ankle the other night. It’s hard to believe he will be playing against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday night to finish the Knicks’ West Coast trip when he was wearing a walking boot on the bench Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thibodeau should have thought of the big picture here. He needs Brunson for the long run, such as in the playoffs. Now, who knows how long he will be out? He could be out for weeks or months. The Knicks are keeping the status of their point guard top secret.

It could be a month or a few weeks until he is back. The Knicks are not going to make the same mistake they did the first time.

There’s no doubt Thibodeau has his fingerprints on what the Knicks do. He wants guys to play through injuries. He wants guys to get off the injury list as soon as possible.

This turned out to be a mistake.  Ankle injuries are always tricky to come back from. Just because Brunson may have been okay to go does not mean he should have rushed his way back. There should have been a process for him to come back.

It’s reckless to think he would be all of a sudden okay to go two games later after he tweaked an injury. Again, what was the rush?

The Knicks' offense comes off as functional when Brunson is playing. Julius Randle benefits from playing with the Knicks point guard in knowing the feed and knowing how to execute. The shooters find their spots and know when to shoot as a result of Brunson's facilitation skills. This team wins often as a result of his playmaking skills.

But here’s the rub: do regular season games matter at this point? Sure it would be nice for the Knicks to get a high seed and host a playoff series. It would be rewarding for the Knicks to win the division after grinding through a long season. But playoff wins matter more than regular season games.

The Knicks need a healthy Brunson if they want a spring run like the good old days in the 90s.

He should be okay to go as long as the Knicks handle this better, unlike the last time. This should not be Brunson’s decision on when to come back. This should be when the team feels like he is ready to go which maybe a month from now.

The Knicks should do okay without Brunson for the time being. This gives an opportunity for Immanuel Quickley to continue his good play by playing starting minutes.

With 12 games left, there should be no rush in bringing him back. Have him ready to go a week before the postseason starts and go from there.

Shame on the Knicks if they make the same mistake twice in handling Brunson.

It would show the head coach does not get it. It would also show this team doesn’t have a clue.

Thibodeau would show he learned a lesson by not playing Brunson again so soon.

It has to be encouraging the Knicks are keeping this quiet to this point. If it leads to speculation, so be it.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

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