New Knicks point guard Derrick Rose paid Obi Toppin a beautiful compliment Monday in saying the rookie power forward is “always in the right spot on the right time.’’
Indeed, Rose has unleashed Toppin for some easy inside buckets since arriving three games ago. However, it’s hardly been perfect.
In Saturday’s 121-99 rout over Houston, Toppin missed the rim entirely on two 3-point shots.
His 3-point percentage is 26.5 percent. The Post has learned some in the organization would prefer he focuses a lot more on his inside game and withdraw from launching 3s.
However, teams are laying off him and Toppin probably has no choice but to take the wide-open looks. It’s a double-edged sword. Rose, meanwhile, has told him not to rush in launching his 3-ball because he has time.
“He always jokes with me, he says every time he gets a 3-point shot, he has at least three or four seconds to get the shot off, and same with me,” Toppin said. “So I’ve got to prove myself at the 3-point line. We’re working on that every single day.”
Other than his 3-point misfirings, the 22-year-old Toppin has started to emerge – with Rose a factor.
Though it was in garbage time, Toppin got the Knicks bench whooping after Kevin Knox lofted a high alley-oop. Toppin leapt to the Garden ceiling to flush it down.
It felt like Toppin facing Fordham all over again in the Atlantic 10. After a slow first half, Toppin finished the night with 11 points, four rebounds and a block in 15 minutes.
“It’s amazing, especially at this level, getting the guys on the bench hyped,” Toppin said. “It’s an amazing feeling. I haven’t done it in a while. To have the opportunity to get that lob from Kevin – Kevin threw a great pass – I had to do the rest. It was a great time with all the guys talking about it.”
With Mitchell Robinson’s broken hand, Toppin should get more minutes when Tom Thibodeau puts into effect the idea of sliding Julius Randle over to center. Toppin, selected eighth in the 2020 NBA Draft, is averaging just 12.1 minutes per game.
The Knicks coach is aware Toppin looks better with Rose, who plays at a faster tempo.
“The pace that Derrick plays at, I love that pace,” Toppin said. “We played at that pace all year when I was at Dayton, just running up and down. I feel like when we get the ball out in transition, it’s hard to stop us. Every time we get a rebound, we look for Derrick, we look for Quick (Immanuel Quickley) and we’re running the floor as fast as we can. We’ve got the young legs.”
Rose, 32, doesn’t have young legs but thus far he still looks younger than he did four years ago when he played in New York under Jeff Hornacek in 2016-17. Back then, Rose reluctantly played in Phil Jackson’s triangle.
The 2011 NBA MVP knew Toppin’s potential before the Super Bowl Sunday trade.
“I’ve been a fan of his ever since college,” Rose said. “So having a chance to play with him, that young energy. I don’t know why he’s always in the right spot at the right time. If anything I could look to him for more lobs. But he’s open. I think he’s a special talent.”
Rose has improved his 3-point game and expects the same from Toppin, with whom he had dinner on his first night with the team in Miami.
“Last game I think he missed two wide-open jumpers,” Rose said. “I told him at halftime to take his time with his shot. They’re going to give him four or five seconds to shoot. I was playing around with him, telling him he was in my category with shooters – they’re going to see if you’re going to knock one down. And once you’re capable of showing that, they’re going to have to run out there. And with him being athletic, the game will come easy for him. The more he plays, the more the game is going to slow down.”
Toppin said he’s been impressed with how much Rose has cared about his and Quickley’s development.
Toppin is known as a terrific teammate himself and can be seen clapping constantly on the bench like he’s at a political rally.
During a team hotel dinner after Rose had finished talking with Thibodeau, he came over to Toppin and Quickley with the two rookies eating by themselves.
“We talk every single day,” Toppin said. “Even when we’re on the court and in the fire, he’s talking to me, helping me every step of the way. I feel like because he is who he is on the court, he has that fire, he has that drive and he wants to help all of us, like me and Quick especially, us being the rookies.”