This, Jalen Brunson emphasized, is not solely a Tom Thibodeau problem.
It isn’t just on the coach to instill confidence in everyone.
The entire team has to do better in the case of Quentin Grimes, who voiced his frustration with his diminished role in the offense after Tuesday’s loss to the Bucks in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals.
“My thoughts are we could be better teammates when it comes to keeping a guy involved and making sure his confidence is still there,” Brunson said after practice Thursday. “Eighty percent of this league is confidence. It’s all about how well you are prepared from a mental standpoint. For us to be at our best, we need everybody.
“As teammates, we need to make sure his confidence is there. The ball needs to find him a little more. I know when he has the ball in his hands, we’re really confident and have a lot of respect for him.”
The third-year shooting guard is having a rough season, his numbers down across the board.
Quentin Grimes puts up a shot in front of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell during the first quarter.
The past seven games have seen Grimes score four points or fewer on six field-goal attempts or fewer.
Overall, he is averaging just 5.8 points on 5.7 shots in 22.9 minutes.
He took just one shot in Milwaukee in 18 minutes.
After the defeat, he said, “It feels like if I don’t hit the shot, I’m coming out. So every shot I shoot probably weighs like 100 pounds if I don’t make it, and our defense, it [wasn’t] cutting it, so I know I ain’t going back in.”
Brunson said he has talked to Grimes but declined to divulge the exact nature of the conversation.
Asked about Grimes’ comments, Thibodeau felt they were borne out of frustration.
He didn’t take them personally.
“We got to get him to play better,” the coach said. “It’s really that simple.”
Grimes is the latest role player to voice frustration about a lack of opportunities, joining Josh Hart.
It’s a product of an offense that features three ball-dominant players in Brunson, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett.
The Knicks, it should be noted, are 28th out of 30 teams in assists (23.3 per game).
Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks is fouled by Quentin Grimes #6 of the New York Knicks during the first quarter of the NBA In-Season Tournament Quarterfinal.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is fouled by Quentin Grimes during the Knicks’ NBA In-Season Tournament quarterfinal loss.
Still, newcomer Donte DiVincenzo has thrived when put in a starting role, averaging 19.5 points in two games.
But Thibodeau has so far resisted change, pointing to the overall success of the starting lineup — which is outscoring the opposition by 6.4 points per 100 possessions.
The Knicks are also 11th in the league in offensive rating at 115.0.
“The more easy baskets for anybody, the more confidence you get. I thought RJ did a really good job of that in the Milwaukee game, bouncing back, just getting out and running,” Thibodeau said. “Because in transition, everyone is the first option. If there’s a kick-ahead pass, you’re the first option. In a pick-and-roll, if you come off a pick-and-roll in transition, you’re the first option. If you’re posting up and the ball is thrown to you, you’re the first option.
“You need easy baskets. You got to move off the ball. And I’d rather play faster, and be more unpredictable and creative on the weak side, which is one of the strengths of Josh and Donte. They both do that well.”
It seemed like Thibodeau was suggesting Grimes can do more to involve himself in the offense.
Brunson thinks everyone can help him find his niche with this team.
He also didn’t want to touch the subject of Brunson/DiVincenzo, saying that both players have performed well.
“It’s all about how you respond,” Brunson said. “I don’t really care for the narrative of this and that. But I do care that we have a good team and we have the right people around us and we stick together whatever the whole narrative of the situation [is].”