After joining the New York Knicks, OG Anunoby made an immediate impression

New York Knicks, OG Anunoby

In his Knicks debut, the forward ended with 17 points and 6 rebounds in 35 minutes, guiding New York to a 112-106 matinée victory over the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves. On Saturday, the Knicks acquired Anunoby from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley.

“I felt good,” Anunoby stated following his victory. “I felt great. On both ends, I’m just trying to assist the team. Just talking to guys on defense and them talking to me about where to be and whatnot. It felt fantastic.”

Anunoby, 26, is a premier “3-and-D” player in the league, having led the league in thefts and made the All-Defensive second team last season while shooting in the mid 30s from 3-point range on six attempts a game for the past four seasons.

In this game, he was almost solely paired up with Anthony Edwards, one of the league’s finest wing scorers, and his first shot as a Knick – which he made – was a corner 3-pointer. He went on to shoot 7-for-12 from the floor, including 3-for-6 from deep, with an assist and a block before fouling out with four minutes remaining in Monday’s victory.

His admission that, despite spending New Year’s Eve alone in his hotel room preparing for this game, he was still learning what he needed to do up until tipoff, and even during the game, as his teammates helped him get up to speed on the fly throughout the contest, made his performance even more impressive.

“They were telling me, ‘Go here,’ even during the game.” ‘Do it.'” With a grin, Anunoby remarked. “They were definitely helping me out, a lot of them.” And I appreciate it.”

It was an overall performance that, at least for a day, demonstrated why the Knicks have been interested in Anunoby’s services since last season, and why it was worth giving up Barrett, Quickley, and one of the top picks in this year’s draft (via Detroit) to get him.

“I love OG,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said before the game. Finch coached Anunoby for half a season in Toronto before taking over as head coach in Minnesota two years ago. “I had a great time coaching him. One of the league’s most effective and versatile defenders. He guarded Damian Lillard one night and Joel Embiid the next. Just very, very nice on both of them.

“Offensively, I always thought he had a little more in his game.” He can really play-make out of the post, and he’s fairly adept at turning corners… I’m sure they’ll be able to draw out more of that here.”

The Knicks, on the other hand, are coached by Tom Thibodeau, which means the emphasis is first and foremost on defense. And here is where Anunoby comes in, as he has transformed New York from a club relying on tiny wing players to Anunoby, who is 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan.

“I thought for the first game, it was impressive,” Thibodeau said. “I just wanted to be prepared and figure it out on the fly.” Played well off guys, hustled, moved without the ball, shot well, made solid moves… really good start.”

It was New York’s defense that turned the game in the second quarter, as the Knicks restricted Minnesota to just 17 points in the second quarter, outscoring the Wolves 38-17 to take a double-digit lead into halftime.

Then, in the fourth quarter, when Minnesota narrowed the advantage to four points, it was Julius Randle, who ended with 39 points and eight rebounds, who pushed the Knicks to victory.

“He is a rival.” “He makes timely shots, timely defensive plays, and he guards the best player [on the opposing team,” Randle said of his new colleague. “It’s not easy to do what he did.”

This summer, Anunoby will be an unrestricted free agent. Still, the assumption is that he will be kept by the Knicks in the future, and while he stated that he will deal with his free agency in the offseason, Anunoby didn’t seem like someone who was planned on leaving New York anytime soon.

“I just take it day by day,” stated Anunoby. “I delegated that to my agents.”

“We’ll figure it out when the time comes.” But I’m quite happy to be here.”

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