Obi Toppin’s return to the Knicks’ lineup Wednesday night lasted less than one minute, but the 2020 lottery pick hadn’t even worked out with the team since suffering a calf injury in his NBA debut in the season opener in Indiana.
Toppin rejoined the team in a full-contact practice for the first time Thursday before the Knicks left for Cleveland ahead of Friday’s game against the Cavaliers.
“Today was a good day for him, a good opportunity for us to get up and down,” Tom Thibodeau said. “I wanted to see that to be honest with you before we get into his playing time. Today was a good step for him. He had an opportunity to play full court, to go through a regular practice. So we’ll see where he is [Friday].”
The rookie power forward — the eighth overall-pick in the draft out of Dayton — played just 57 seconds off the bench in the second quarter of Wednesday’s home loss to Brooklyn. One day later, Toppin noted the importance of finally returning to practice with his teammates after a three-week absence.
“It felt really good. It’s been a little bit since I got on the court with the guys. It felt good to be involved in practice,” Toppin said. “My mentality is just to be ready when Coach calls my name. I put in a lot of work every single day to help my game and when the time comes for me to step on that court, I’ll be ready.”
After shooting just 30.3 percent (20 of 66) from the floor in his previous four games, Knicks guard RJ Barrett scored 20 points on 7-for-15 shooting against the Nets, who are coached by his godfather, Steve Nash.
“With RJ, it’s weird because I pray for every shot of his to go in, and playing against him, it puts that in a perilous position,” Nash said after the game. “It’s a pleasure to watch him grow and continue to develop. He’s still 20 years old, and he’s finding his footing in this league. He’s got a lot of tools and talent, and most importantly, he’s a tough cookie. So it was a special experience for me to coach against him and I’m always rooting for him and it’s been a joy for me to watch him develop and play.”
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