Rick Carlisle isn’t surprised Tom Thibodeau is Knicks ‘difference-maker’

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The Knicks are on a two-game losing streak after coughing up a 13-point fourth-quarter lead Wednesday to the NBA’s worst team, the Timberwolves.

But none of that can dampen the shine coach Tom Thibodeau has put on the Knicks in his first season. The same shine he put on the Bulls and, however, briefly, Minnesota.

“I could tell you that none of the coaches that know him are surprised at all that this turnaround is happening,’’ Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Thibs is a difference-maker, man.’’

Carlisle, who will coach his 1,500th NBA game on Friday against the Knicks, is the president of the NBA Coaches Association and knows the standing of his members.

Carlisle cited Thibodeau’s fast impact in Chicago and then leading Minnesota to break its 14-year playoff drought in 2017-18.

“I think Thibs is a great coach,’’ Carlisle said. “When he went to Chicago they had immediate success. They had quite a turnaround there. I believe they went to the conference finals in his first year, Derrick Rose was the MVP. With Rose coming back to New York, I know he’s only played [10] games, but he’s played very well. He plays great in Thibs’ system.’’

Thibodeau’s first return to Minnesota on Wednesday was spoiled with the Knicks’ late collapse as their top two players, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, failed in the clutch to pull out the win.

But that victory by the Wolves made them just 48-106 since Thibodeau was fired in January 2019.

The Knicks are 24-24 under Thibodeau — tied for fifth place in the East — playing meaningful games after the All-Star break for the first time since 2014. Their playoff drought is seven years.

“When he went to Minnesota they went from a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in a long time and they became a playoff team,’’ Carlisle said. “And the Knicks are certainly positioned in the East to do that. He’s a guy that has great respect in the coaching ranks, because of what he stands for as a tactician, what he stands for as a guy that believes in tough, hard-nosed play, unselfish play, and particularly on the defensive side. He’s got this team playing to its strengths.’’


Barrett has played in all 48 games, but his late-game fold in Minnesota could move the Knicks to rest him against the Mavericks. He popped up as questionable on the injury report for Friday, though showed no signs of any distress on his last-second missed 19-footer jumper. … Rose is also questionable with an ankle sprain and could miss his 12th game as a Knick. Ten of his absences were due to COVID-19.

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