New York Knicks: 4 takeaways from Obi Toppin’s preseason debut

Obi Toppin, Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Obi Toppin, Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dec 11, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin (1) celebrates with teammates after a play during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Rookie Obi Toppin was impressive in the New York Knicks’ preseason opener.

For the first time in 275 days, the New York Knicks played a basketball game, and it was a fun one. Sure, it was only a preseason game, there were sloppy plays and the empty seats in the arena provided a sobering reminder of the times we are living in, but from a fan perspective, it was entertaining.

New York traveled to Detroit to defeat the Pistons 90-84 in the first preseason game of the 2020-21 season. The two teams will meet again in the Motor City on Sunday, before the Knicks travel home for their first game at Madison Square Garden since mid-March.

While it’s only preseason, let’s review four key takeaways from last night’s game.

1) The Starting Lineup

I have to start with how the game started. Less than an hour before tip-off, the starting lineup was revealed, and #KnicksTwitter had their first meltdown of the season (we are in mid-season form).

In his first game as head coach, Tom Thibodeau decided to start Nerlens Noel, Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Alec Burks, and Elfrid Payton. A lineup that looks a lot like the lineups from last season that limited the spacing around their 2019 lottery pick, Barrett.

My advice to Knicks fans: settle down. It’s the first preseason game. The way the lineup looks on Day 1 is not necessarily how it is going to look on Day 27. Thibodeau needs time and reps to find the proper balance. Obi Toppin was set to play in his first professional game; I don’t think it’s a problem to ease him into the action, especially during an exhibition.

As for Mitchell Robinson, the writing was on the wall throughout training camp. Thibs didn’t mince words in suggesting that Robinson has work to do to continue his development path toward becoming a legit starter. Noel is a veteran, but only 26-years-old, so starting him out of the gate is not the same as playing a veteran like Taj Gibson.

Both Mitch and Noel battled foul trouble and Noel only ended up playing three extra minutes over Mitch. It’s less about who starts than how the minutes end up being distributed. The lineup will remain something to watch as the preseason progresses.