Jericho Sims a rare bright spot in this dismal Knicks season

Knicks rookie center Jericho Sims wasn’t the most famous Texas Longhorn on the Garden court Wednesday night, but he was the longest-serving one, playing four years in Austin.

During that time, Kevin Durant, a one-and-done in Austin, visited the campus several times and played pickup with the Texas players, including against Sims.

So it must’ve been a thrill for Sims when in the first half of the Knicks’ loss to the Nets Wednesday, Durant rambled to the hole and got reacquainted with Sims, who blocked his shot, leading to a fast-break score the other way.

“We met a few times …played with us pickup,” Sims said.

But when asked if it felt good to block Durant, the modest Sims just smiled, his way of issuing a no comment.

“Kevin’s Kevin,” Sims added. “He’s going to do what he does. You got to try your best.”

Sims posted his best statistical performance Wednesday with his first double-double – 10 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks. He shot 4 of 6 from the field – all his field goals on dunks. His shooting percentage is 76.1 percent for the season.

Knicks center Jericho Sims (45) guard Kevin Durant during a loss on April 6, 2022.
Jason Szenes

On a two-way G League contract, Sims was the 58th pick in the draft and is one of the few success stories of this failed 2021-22 Knicks season. Because of his contract terms, Sims isn’t allowed to make more than the $280,000 max for two-ways.

A regular minimum deal is worth $925,000, so Sims, 23, is being paid below his value after logging 39 games.

The Knicks dedicated the post-All-Star-break schedule to getting a close look at Sims to evaluate if he can be Mitchell Robinson Lite next season. Robinson is an unrestricted free agent and the Knicks may lose him. Since Feb. 25, Thibodeau has played Sims over veteran Taj Gibson while Nerlens Noel was shut down with plantar fasciitis.

“He played well against them the last time,” Thibodeau said. “Because you got to do more than one thing — his ability to blitz the pick-and-roll to get the ball out of their hands, get back to the basket. And of putting pressure on the rim is huge.”

Sims’ skill-set is very similar to Robinson’s. With uber athletic ability and strength, Sims is a good offensive rebounder and converts lobs at the rim into powerhouse dunks. RJ Barrett found him twice vs. the nets.

Knicks
Jericho Sims tries to block a Kevin Durant shot on April 6, 2022.
Jason Szenes

“It’s tough with him coming downhill, me rolling hard to the rim,” Sims said. “Usually it’s going to be open. If not we’ll still get something good out of it.”

Sims is also extremely quiet — much like Robinson his rookie season.

“Nothing out of the ordinary — just playing a little bit more, trying to get as many rebounds as I can, finish as many lobs and dunks as I can,” Sims said. “Simple as that.”

If Robinson leaves, solving the Knicks’ center issue isn’t going to be simple for team president Leon Rose. The club currently has a redundancy at the position, with four defensive centers who aren’t shooters in Sims, Robinson, Noel and Gibson. Some scouts see Sims as a career backup because of his lack of shooting.

However, Thibodeau feels Sims can be a playmaker in the post — an element not part of Robinson’s skill-set.

“He’s gotten a lot of better at it,” Thibodeau said. “Great feet, the athleticism is terrific. We haven’t seen the playmaking in the paint he has. As time goes on, we’ll see that he’s a very good playmaker in the paint. You’ll see him kick out and find the open guy.”

There are two games left for Sims to try to show Knicks brass it could live without Robinson. Sims said he’s gotten strong support from the veterans, from Kemba Walker to Julius Randle to Taj Gibson.

“Everybody has been in my ear at some point,” Sims said.

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