Mike Krzyzewski loves what he’s seeing on the Knicks: ‘gym rats’

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Jalen Brunson and the Knicks have a fan in retired Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Coach K said on his SiriusXM radio show this week that he’s been impressed with the Knicks’ performance under coach Tom Thibodeau and how Brunson’s $104 million free-agent signing has made them an Eastern Conference playoff contender.

“One team that’s been really hot is the Knicks,” Krzyzewski said on “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K.” “Tom Thibodeau and I worked together with USA Basketball and it looks like he has a bunch of gym rats. I call them gym rats. They like to be in the gym.’

“I thought that trade was just about getting Josh Hart … and maybe one of the big (additions) of the offseason was (signing) Brunson. You know what’s been done for the Knicks, (Julius) Randle, he’s done like RJ Barrett, where he’s not they have to be puntists. And so, when they have the ball, they dribble less, the attack has already moved because of Brunson and it has turned out well.”

Barrett played one season under Krzyzewski at Duke in 2018-19, but the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history said another up-and-coming Knicks player also caught his eye this season.

Mike Krzyzewski talked about the Knicks game, showing off the likes of Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley.Getty Images

“A young man that I really love on his team, (Immanuel) Quickley has done a great job for them,” Krzyzewski added of the Knicks’ sixth man. “He can really throw shots.”

“And so New York is going nuts because they’re 10 games over .500 and they won their ninth game in a row (before Tuesday’s loss to the Hornets). So there are good things, it’s a great time for basketball (in New York).”

That has a lot to do with Brunson, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February last week.

“I think the most important thing is his impact on winning,” Thibodeau said. “We love how selfless he is. It’s all about the team. That’s all he cares about. I think he resonates with his teammates and makes your team work well, so we’re excited.”

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans.New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans.AP

“Whenever a player is recognized in this way, it’s positive and it’s usually the result of winning. The more we win, the more people will be recognized.”

The Knicks did not hold a morning shootaround or media availability Thursday morning against the Kings at Golden 1 Center to begin a four-game West Coast swing.

Brunson was still questionable after missing the previous two games with a sore left foot.

The Kings expected All-Star point guard De’Aaron Fox to play after he missed Monday’s game against the Pelicans with a sore groin.

“I attended practice (against the Knicks) to make sure I was ready to go,” Fox told reporters Wednesday. “I feel good. If I still felt bad, I probably wouldn’t have played.”

The Knicks’ road trip – with games against the Clippers, Lakers and Trail Blazers – began with a 20-12 road record this season, tied with the Bucks and Celtics for the league’s best mark entering play Thursday. .

“We have a lot of tough guys, guys with a chip on their shoulder,” Quickley said after the home loss to Charlotte. “And then we have great people. It takes character to win on the road, it takes toughness to win on the road. And I think we have that. So whether we are up or down, we know how to handle it. And I think it shows when we’re on the road.”

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