Tom Thibodeau responds to Hawks claims: ‘Don’t think league favors us’

Tom Thibodeau had a first-hand memory ready when asked Friday if he agreed with Hawks coach Nate McMillan’s assessment earlier this week that the NBA “wants and needs” the Knicks in the playoffs.

“I know a lot of times people think that. I’ve been here, I’ve been part of the Knicks before, been an opposing coach, been with different organizations. The league is going to do what is best for the league,” Thibodeau said. “You can say that, but [in] ’96-97…we had [five] guys get suspended [in a playoff series against Miami].

“We had Patrick Ewing took a step off the bench, it wiped him out and that was our chance probably for a championship. I don’t think the league favors us. I think the playoffs heighten everything. You’re fighting the same opponent over and over again. We just want to focus on what we have to do for game one.”

Thibodeau was referring to a Game 5 brawl against the Heat in the second round of the 1997 playoffs, a series in which the Knicks blew a 3-1 lead and lost in seven games.

McMillan was fined $25,000 “for detrimental public comments asserting bias by the NBA,” although he insisted Friday he didn’t intend to “suggest any type of bias as it relates to the league and our upcoming playoff series.”

New York Knicks' Immanuel Quickley (5) and coach Tom Thibodeau argue with an official.
Tom Thibodeau didn’t agree with the idea that the NBA favors the Knicks.
AP Photo

Thibodeau and the coaching staff gave the Knicks two books of in-depth scouting and game-planning information to study at home with a week off between games ahead of Sunday’s playoff opener.

“It’s actually kind of funny, me and Obi [Toppin] were like it kind of reminds us of school,” rookie Immanuel Quickley said. “The other day we got into small groups and it was almost like we had class. So we were joking with each other that it was kind of like school all over again.”

Derrick Rose has been through the playoffs four previous times while coached by Thibodeau, with Chicago and Minnesota, and joked “with Thibs, it’s still the same.”

“Only thing that’s changed is the playbook,” Rose added. “The books that we get for the playoffs, they don’t look like bibles anymore. They look like regular school books. You used to have binders full of the plays when we were in Chicago. But this year he gave us two books, one more detailed than the other.”

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