Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau feels excited with ‘very aggressive’ Dennis Smith Jr.
After a miserable 2019-20 campaign, Dennis Smith Jr. appears to be on a comeback trail for the upcoming season. Newly hired New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau recently spoke about the 23-year-old and expressed his excitement to see what DSJ has to offer.
Coach Thibs acknowledged how Smith struggled last season, but he also shared how he believes the former ninth overall pick has a great opportunity ahead of him now:
“You see that with a lot of players — a young player who usually finds some bumps on the road, and he had those and find a way to rise above them and become successful,” Tom Thibodeau said of Dennis Smith Jr. on his zoom call Wednesday, via Alder Almo of Empire Sports Media.
After an amazing rookie campaign with the Dallas Mavericks, Smith pretty much fell off a cliff over his next two years in the league. Last season with the Knicks, the former NC State standout played just 34 games for New York, averaging 5.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 15.8 minutes per game.
Despite the challenges he faced, Dennis Smith Jr. continues to keep his head up. It appears that he’s now going to be rewarded for his perseverance, with a new coaching regime in place in New York. For his part, Thibodeau had nothing but good things to say about Smith:
“He’s been very aggressive. I think each day. He’s gotten better and better. That’s what we’re asking him to do — to run his team, keep us organized, take advantage of what you’re strengths are, your ability to get downhill, force people to collapse, and then make the right play,” Thibodeau said. “He can score the ball. He’s shooting the ball pretty well right now. But he’s making good plays also.
“That’s what you’re hoping to see, and we’ll know when we get into the games. A big part of shooting, of course, is your confidence and concentration.
“So if you put the work in, obviously, you’ll get more confidence from doing that. And of course, being in great shape is a big part of being successful in this league. So he’s got to continue to work on conditioning, continue studying the league, and just concentrate on getting better every day.”
If all goes according to plan, Smith could serve as a pleasant surprise next season for a Knicks team that is in desperate need of some momentum.