Inside The Knicks Defense: How Tom Thibodeau’s team has dominated

NY Knicks (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
NY Knicks (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /
2 of 4
Tom Thibodeau, Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Rich Schultz/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports /

Knicks: How Tom Thibodeau has set the tone

Taking over a team with a brand new front office, in a shortened offseason, in the middle of a pandemic, is inherently chaotic. The Knicks entered the season with long expectations. Many assumed it would be another long season of praying for a high draft pick, and yet, the Knicks’ have flipped that mentality into a new one. A foreign mindset for The Knicks, one that seems obvious but hasn’t been there for the organization: Playing to win.

How do you transform a team that has been become synonymous with losing? You hold them accountable, and it starts in practice.

Since day-1 of Knicks camp, the focus seemed to be on one thing – Defense. Not surprising, given Tom Thibodeau’s history of being a defensive-minded coach wherever he’s been. The players noticed it right off the bat.

“Being more technical on the defensive end.” It may sound simple, but the emphasis on the technicalities and fundamentals is something that can be lost in today’s game. Everyone on this team knows when and where to rotate while remaining consistent and patient in their defensive stance. It’s been a total team effort on defense.

When you look at the Knicks’ roster, are there good defenders? Absolutely. Are there any All-NBA defensive team players? Nope.

There have been great defensive efforts from everyone, particularly Mitchell Robinson, RJ Barrett, Reggie Bullock, and Nerlens Noel. Even with those great individual efforts, there’s no one who prior to this season was known as some sort of high-end defensive stalwart. There may have been a few “Defensive minded” guys, but no one who is near the top defenders in the game. Thibodeau has his guys playing at a higher-than-expected level.

Thibodeau-led practices require zero slipups in your technique. There are 5 players on the court, and any small mistake isn’t just a reflection on yourself but on your teammates as well. You’ll hear the word “Accountability” over and over. It’s something that remains important for any team but is particularly critical for a defense like Tom Thibodeau’s.

So what exactly is a Tom Thibodeau defense and why has it been so effective? Let’s get into some of the Xs and Os.