Aligned in their third NBA organization together, Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose clearly trust each other.
The 32-year-old point guard, who was obtained by the Knicks earlier this month, moved seamlessly into the starting lineup in place of injured starter Elfrid Payton in Thursday’s win over the Kings.
After overcoming multiple knee injuries, Rose no longer is the same dynamic player who became the youngest MVP in NBA history at age 22 in 2010-11 during Thibodeau’s first season as head coach of the Bulls. But their familiarity with each other — including another stint together in Minnesota — has been evident in their latest reunion with the Knicks.
“Any time you’ve spent the amount of time that we’ve spent together and to have all the experiences that we’ve had — we’ve had some great highs, we’ve had some lows — there’s just an appreciation for him,” Thibodeau said Friday. “I think that’s one of the best parts of coaching, as you get to know people over a long period of time you appreciate all the things that they bring.
“We have a great trust in each other. We’ve always been truthful to each other. I think that’s helped us build that trust. But he has a lot of deposits. Obviously all the things that he’s done on all the teams that I’ve been with, I wouldn’t be in this position today without him.”
The Knicks improved to 16-17 with their win over the Kings on Thursday, and were in a position to potentially move into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference when they faced the Pacers on Saturday night at the Garden.
“I think it’s very important, especially when you have a coach like Thibs, he’s a martinet-type of individual,” Rose said Friday. “He’s very serious. He knows the standings and he’s going to remind you this is a team that if we make it to the payoffs we could end up facing them.
“Everything is about home court and in the playoffs that plays a huge role.”
Rose has played an important role since the Knicks acquired him from the Pistons on Feb. 7. He entered Saturday averaging 11.8 points and 4.1 assists in his first eight games since the trade, including 18 and six in those categories Thursday against Sacramento.
“I think his quickness is the same. And obviously I think as players get older, what they do is they get experience and they add things to their games,” Thibodeau said. “So he’s a lot different than he was when he was 22. And obviously that athleticism is different now. But he also has the knowledge of all the experiences he’s been through.
“He’s seen just about every defense you can possibly see. Early on, that was an adjustment for him. He’s been trapped, he’s been hit, he’s seen the early traps, he’s seen the box and ones. He’s seen it all. And I think he has a pretty good idea how to handle all those things now and he’s comfortable with it. But he’s always involved his teammates, I think he reads defenses well. He takes much better care of his body now than he did earlier in his career. And so I think we are seeing the benefits of that.”
Thibodeau also said he believes the three-time All-Star is in a “good place” mentally at this stage of his career on and off the court.
“He’s a consummate pro. Whatever you ask him to do, the team has always been first for him, from the beginning to now,” Thibodeau said. “I think he and Taj [Gibson] have added so much to our team. And he’s a great example for all our young guys. He’s handled the ups, he’s handled the downs, and everywhere in-between. He’s playing at a very high level for us.”
Gibson, serving as the backup center to Nerlens Noel in Mitchell Robinson’s injury absence, also played for Thibodeau previously in both Chicago and Minnesota.