Toppin still with Knicks as NBA trade deadline passes

Former Dayton star has struggled to find playing time in three seasons

None of the deals made just before the NBA trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. Thursday included former Dayton Flyers star Obi Toppin.

Toppin has seen his playing time decline in his third season with the New York Knicks but will remain with them despite interest from other teams, according to reports. Ian Begley, of SportsNet New York, reported the Indiana Pacers were one of the teams interested in Toppin.

“Just my opinion: It seems clear that the Knicks don’t have an avenue to give Toppin a bigger role,” Begley wrote. “The only obvious route would be to trade Julius Randle, which isn’t happening. Toppin has handled his diminished role with class publicly. As far as I can tell, he’s done everything the franchise has asked of him. That’s why I think the Knicks should find Toppin a new home before 3 p.m. It would be the right thing to do for a player who has handled a difficult situation well.”

Toppin, the No. 8 pick in the 2020 draft, is averaging 6.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game in 41 games. Those numbers are down from 9.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.1 minutes per game last season. He averaged 4.1 points, 2.21 rebounds and 11.0 minutes as a rookie.

Toppin missed 15 games in December and January with a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula head. He has appeared in 16 games since his return and has not played more than 17 minutes in that stretch.

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The Knicks are 30-26 and rank seventh in the Eastern Conference. Although Toppin is a fan favorite in New York City, his hometown, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has not given Toppin consistent playing time throughout his three years in the NBA. Toppin ranks 11th on the roster in minutes this season

“Innately, he’s much more comfortable playing offense. Because that’s what his strength is,” Thibodeau said in September. “I think defensively, I think he can get there. The NBA game is a lot different than the college game. So you’ve got to not only learn how the game’s different, you’ve got to learn the personnel, you’ve got to learn the schemes so that it becomes instinctive to you. But I see where you’re going with that, and it’s something he should strive for. I think he’s gotten better and he’s still not where he probably should be, or could be.”

In other NBA news:

• Franklin High School graduate Luke Kennard was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Memphis Grizzlies. A sixth-year guard, Kennard is averaging 7.8 points in 35 games.

The three-team deal involving Kennard also included these moves: the Clippers received Eric Gordon from the Houston Rockets plus three second-round picks; and he Rockets received John Wall from the Clippers, but he will be waived.

Kennard started his NBA career with the Detroit Pistons in 2017-18 and spent three seasons with them. The Pistons traded him to the Clippers in December 2020.

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