The New York Knicks are ecstatic to have Lance Thomas back in the rotation. Find out what Kristaps Porzingis and Jeff Hornacek said about his return.
A season ago, Lance Thomas was the X-Factor for the New York Knicks. His defensive tenacity and offensive versatility invigorated the Knicks and enabled Derek Fisher’s crew to secure a .500 record after 44 games.
Article continues below ...
Unfortunately, the issue that plagued Thomas in 2015-16 has reared its ugly head again in 2016-17: injuries.
Thomas missed 23 games due to injury during the 2015-16 NBA regular season and has already missed 25 games in 2016-17. Fortunately, he returned to action on Sunday, Feb. 12 against the San Antonio Spurs.
“Lance always brings the defensive edge and the right mindset,’’ Porzingis said. “Maybe that’s why we’ve been so bad defensively.’’
Head coach Jeff Hornacek echoed the sentiment.
“His defensive aggressiveness helps the other guys,’’ Hornacek said. “It helps to see how hard you can go. When he is getting after it you almost have to do that to your guy.’’
Accountability has been tough to come by in New York and Thomas’ presence appears to provide a necessary dose of it.
It’s worth noting that, in Thomas’ first game back, the Knicks held the Spurs to 90 points on 36.3 percent shooting from the field. It’s also worth noting that New York had a defensive rating of 121.0 during Thomas’ 17 minutes on the court.
True as that may be, it’s hard to fault a player for showing signs of rust after missing nearly a calendar month due to an orbital fracture.
More importantly, when the coach and players cite his return as a spark on defense, the numbers lose their luster.
Thomas’ inability to remain on the court has damaged his overall impact. When healthy, however, Thomas is a rugged defender who can make a positive impact on his team by motivating those around him to play at a higher level.
That was proven in 2015-16, when the Knicks accumulated defensive ratings of 103.2 with Thomas on the court and 105.6 without him.