LAS VEGAS — Obi Toppin acquired a telephone name Friday from Texas to basically say: “Sustain the nice work. I’m going to wish you.”
Knicks All-Star energy ahead Julius Randle, who led the NBA in minutes final season, rang Toppin to precise admiration for his play within the Las Vegas Summer season League.
In 5 video games, Toppin has averaged 36.5 minutes and been a constant scoring machine — from all over the place. The 6-foot-9 energy ahead has bulled his approach to the ring for buckets, used his athleticism for theatrical alley-oop dunks and appeared respectable taking pictures from 3-point vary (35.5 p.c).
“I used to be speaking to Julius [Friday],’’ Toppin advised The Put up late Saturday night time after the Knicks beat the Cavaliers to maneuver to 3-2. “That’s my boy. That’s my brother. He advised me: ‘Good job, simply protecting hooping.’ He stated it appears to be like like I’m having enjoyable on the market. Simply preserve having fun with what I’m doing.’’
In Toppin’s rookie season, the Dayton dunker didn’t hoop sufficient.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t belief the Brooklyn native on protection and Toppin’s effectivity on offense wasn’t sufficient to maintain the facility ahead on the courtroom for lengthy stretches. Not when Randle was having his blazing season. Toppin averaged simply 11 minutes and 4.0 factors.
Now, the Knicks 2020 lottery choose is spreading his wings, hotter than close by Demise Valley. The Knicks have one comfort sport left Monday versus Atlanta but it surely’s up within the air on whether or not Toppin performs.
He’s confirmed sufficient, averaging 23.0 factors — fifth-highest in summer time league — and shot 45.9 p.c from the sphere. Although turnovers have been a problem, Toppin is averaging 8.2 rebounds.
“It feels nice placing up the numbers I’ve been placing up,’’ stated Toppin, who scored 21 factors versus Cleveland on Saturday. “Right this moment wasn’t what I wished on the rebounding aspect. I’m simply having enjoyable on the market, having enjoyable with all these guys. Being right here I’ve to be the chief and assist these guys get wins.’’
Discovering extra minutes for the 23-year-old Toppin can be a boon as it will give Randle extra breathers. Randle led the NBA in whole minutes final season in taking part in 71 of 72 video games. Randle averaged 37.4 minutes per sport.
If Toppin can log 18 minutes, Randle’s haul may very well be decreased to 33 minutes or so — in the event that they share the courtroom briefly. Randle appeared worn out by the playoffs.
In accordance with one NBA scout, Toppin’s offensive sport now not appears to be like to be a fear, however he nonetheless should work on crew protection and being a greater inside defender with a purpose to earn extra minutes from Thibodeau.
“I really feel like I do know my function,’’ Toppin stated. “I attempted to give attention to rebounding and protection principally. Simply bettering in that, offensively issues will come to me. I really feel like protection is crucial factor when taking part in for coach Thibs — and taking part in wherever.
“You do hustle performs on protection, get a block, a steal. It’s choosing up the crew and giving gamers vitality. In the event you get a cease on protection, you change it to offense. Now we have loads of totally different weapons offensively. So once we get that cease, we’ll end on the alternative aspect.’’
Thibodeau didn’t discuss to the press at summer time league. He nonetheless hasn’t addressed the Knicks’ 4 2021 draft picks regardless of them excelling in Las Vegas. Knicks brass is delighted by the enhancements since June’s Draft Mix made by Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride and Jericho Sims. (Rokas Jokubaitis left the summer time crew Saturday to affix Barcelona and received’t be on the Knicks roster.)
The additions of latest level guard Kemba Walker and swingman Evan Fournier will assist. If a few the rookies contribute and add depth, the Knicks may probably maintain their top-5 standing within the much-improved East.
“I really feel like subsequent yr’s crew goes to be nice,’’ Toppin stated. “Now we have loads of totally different weapons, like we did final yr. We added a pair extra guys. With coach Thibs, we’ll lock in defensively and every little thing goes to go our method. I really feel we’ll be No. 1 in protection once more and push offensively to be high tier.’’
And if Toppin makes an enormous leap, all bets are off.
“Obi put loads of time in in the summertime and it’s confirmed,’’ Knicks summer time league coach Cube Yoshimoto. “He’s acquired to proceed to place time in and outcomes will deal with itself. This was an opportunity to point out who he’s and construct the fitting habits.’’
After being drafted No. 8 final November, Toppin by no means acquired to ease into the NBA with the Las Vegas showcase. Maybe occasions would’ve gone smoother his rookie yr if he had that have right here.
“It didn’t occur,’’ Toppin stated. “It could’ve been nice to have a summer time league final yr.”