MILWAUKEE — Now that he’s back, center Nerlens Noel has no issues coming off the bench for Mitchell Robinson and foresees the Knicks having “a Twin Towers’’ setup.
In the second game of his comeback Friday, Noel was “phenomenal’’ in Milwaukee on Friday in their 113-98 defeat of the defending champions.
The boxscore doesn’t always reflect Noel’s defensive worth, but he gave them 25 minutes of grit and grind with six points, 13 rebounds and finishing a plus-22.
“That’s who he is,’’ Thibodeau said. “We probably overlook all the other aspects of his defense because we always talk about the rim protection, which is obviously elite, but his pick-and-roll defense is terrific, as well. Just the way he can fly all over the court, he’s got great length, and it gives your team energy. And when you get into the open floor off that stuff, that gets everyone feeling good and easy buckets. It changes things.’’
There’s been two “Twin Towers’’ alignments in Knicks history — in the late 1970s when the Knicks had Bill Cartwright and Marvin Webster. And later in the 1980s with Cartwright and a young Patrick Ewing.
Now it’s Robinson-Noel — two of the best shotblockers in the NBA.
“Me and Mitch do similar things but we do it different ways,” Noel said. “So I bring what I bring — being aggressive on the pick-and-rolls, hedging out and getting guys uncomfortable, as well as protecting the rim. Mitch brings what he brings with his size and physicality.”
“Mitch did a great job holding it down,’’ Noel added. “We want to get to the level of having two Twin Towers back and holding down the paint.’’
Noel missed the entire preseason with knee and hamstring issues and then the season’s first seven regular-season games. While the Knicks listed his knee on the injury report, Noel again said it was more his hamstring.
In fact, when he was about to pay in the preseason finale, he reinjured the hamstring. Hence, he was extra cautious before he came back for good.
“I’m very focused on having a great year and giving my best self to this team.’’ Noel said. “I didn’t want to have any setbacks. I wanted to be 100% when I came back. I owe that to this team and myself, and that’s what I did, and I’m feeling great now. Hit the ground running.”
Knicks rookie PG Miles McBride has just been a mop-up man in garbage time, making four appearances, playing four minutes through eight games. McBride got in for the final 26 seconds Friday.
Meanwhile the Westchester Knicks staged their season opener Friday night vs. Capital City. Thibodeau didn’t rule out giving a game here and there to McBride and rookie center Jericho Sims but believes it’s more important they are with the big club. Sims now is the fourth-string center with Noel back from injury.
“I like them with us. When we have opportunities to get them playing time [in the G League] we’ll try to take advantage of that. I also think having substitutes in practice for some of our guys is a important part. The value has to be what’s best for us. We put a lot of time in our player development so they put in work before. I like the thought of [G League] playing time and I love the proximity of it, playing a game and also get back and be with us. We’ll see how it unfolds but right now I need them to be with us.’’
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