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Tom Thibodeau Calls Veteran ‘Ultimate Pro’ After Game 5 Win

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After Julius Randle suffered a shoulder injury, the New York Knicks made a move to help fortify their bench depth. In early February, they acquired Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for four players (Quentin Grimes being the only rotational piece) and cash. Both of the former Pistons got off to slow starts with their new team. While Bogdanovic finally began to integrate himself and become a useful player, Burks was unable to do so. Now it is Burks who is playing a huge role for New York in the postseason.

Tom Thibodeau Calls Veteran ‘Ultimate Pro’ After Game 5 Win

Vintage Alec Burks

This is Alec Burks’ second tenure with the Knicks. The 32-year-old also played two seasons for the team in 2020-21 and 2021-22. The 6-6 guard’s struggles after joining New York for the second time left him glued to the bench. In his 23 regular season games with the team, he owned ugly shooting percentages of 30.7% from the field and 30.1% from three-point range.

The 13th-year pro received zero playing time in seven of the Knicks’ last 12 regular season games. He did not leave the bench in New York’s first-round series win against the Philadelphia 76ers nor the first two games of their second-round matchup against the Indiana Pacers. He finally played in Game 3, and it was for less than a minute.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, the team has become decimated with injuries. Already without Julius Randle for the playoffs, Bojan Bogdanovic has his leg rolled over in the playoffs against Philadelphia. He underwent both foot and wrist surgery and is out for the postseason.

Center Mitchell Robinson had a lengthy absence during the regular season with an ankle injury. He fought hard to return to the court, but after Game 1 against Indiana, he too was announced out for the playoffs with an ankle injury. Forward OG Anunoby has provided a huge spark for the Knicks since being acquired from the Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately, he missed a lot of time in the regular season with an elbow injury. The 26-year-old injured his hamstring in Game 2 against the Pacers. He has missed the last three outings, and it is unclear when he will return.

With four rotation pieces out, Burks has entered the rotation in the last three games. Despite playing less than a minute in New York’s first eight postseason contests, he has now played 67 combined over the last three. They have been productive minutes as well. Burks scored 18 points in Game 5 and has totaled 52 points in the last three games. He has combined to shoot 15-28 from the field and 9-18 from deep. Head coach Tom Thibodeau heaped praise on the veteran for staying ready through the DNP-Coach’s Decision he frequently was receiving.

Knicks Can Close Out Series on Friday

The Knicks 121-91 victory over the Pacers on Tuesday has now given them a 3-2 series lead. They will attempt to close out the series on Friday in Indiana. If New York advances, it will be the first time they have reached the Eastern Conference Finals since 2000.

Even if OG Anunoby were to return on Friday, one would think Burks has earned a spot in the rotation. While Thibodeau has gone seven deep in some playoff games this year, he can have eight reliable options to play with Miles McBride, Precious Achiuwa, and Burks coming off the bench.

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