Quentin Grimes’ sweet jumper is what made him appealing to the Knicks in the first place. His defense and intensity, however, is why he’s begun to emerge.
Coach Tom Thibodeau never even mentioned Grimes’ offense after the one-sided Christmas Day victory over the shorthanded Hawks at the Garden in discussing the rising rookie wing.
“The energy and defense, that’s a big component,” the Knicks’ coach said. “He is a terrific wing defender for a young guy.”
This was after the 21-year-old Grimes became the first Knicks’ rookie to hit five 3-pointers in consecutive games. Most impressive about the feat was that it came over a 13-day span. After exploding for 27 points as an emergency starter in a Dec. 12 loss to the Bucks, Grimes entered COVID-19 protocol. His first game back was Saturday, and the first-round pick (25th overall) out of Houston responded with 15 points, giving the Knicks punch off the bench. There was no hint of rust. In fact, Grimes played a pivotal role in the win. In a game-turning 16-4, third-quarter run, he hit a pair of 3-pointers and set up an Evan Fournier jumper with a drive across the lane.
“He’s high energy, he’s tough, he takes the right shots, he plays defense,” Thibodeau said.
These two games have illustrated how Grimes can help the Knicks, and it goes beyond his 3-point shot. He had five assists, five rebounds and five steals. He’s more than just a shooter. It is also a tiny sample size. Before these two contests, Grimes had been stapled to the bench, logging just 80 minutes in 10 games, mostly mop-up duty.
But the Knicks’ COVID-19 outbreak forced Thibodeau’s hand, and Grimes has so far taken advantage of his opportunity. It will be interesting to see what happens when the Knicks get healthier. Immanuel Quickley should be ready to play in their next game, Tuesday against the Timberwolves, and soon another rookie, Miles McBride, could come off the COVID-19 list. Like Grimes, McBride was impressive when called upon, producing 15 points, nine assists and four steals in a win over the Rockets on Dec. 16 before getting sidelined by the virus.
Even without Derrick Rose (ankle surgery), there will be a backcourt juggling act for Thibodeau, particularly since Kemba Walker has thrived since returning to the lineup. He followed up a 44-point outburst with a triple-double in the win over the Hawks. It seems hard to imagine, though, that Grimes won’t be part of the rotation moving forward.
“The intensity that he plays with, he is all out and so is Miles McBride and that is a different weapon that we have,” Thibodeau said. “Both of those guys have been terrific. You can add Jericho [Sims] to that. I love our young guys. They are great workers, they are competitive, they are smart and those types of guys always get better.”
Thibodeau doesn’t sound like a coach who wants to see less of his young players. If anything, he seems intent on seeing more of them — especially Grimes.