Obi Toppin joked Monday that he doesn’t look at head coach Tom Thibodeau on the Knicks’ bench after executing a flashy dunk during games, such as his between-the-legs slam that invigorated the Garden during the preseason win over the Pacers on Friday.
“I’ve trained myself not to look at Thibs anymore. Because every time I look at Thibs, I get in my head,” Toppin said after practice in Tarrytown. “So I just get back on defense, and pray, and [be] happy it went in.”
Toppin smiled broadly, but said he hasn’t decided yet whether he will defend his Slam Dunk title at the 2022-23 All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City in February.
“I just want the two points. But the thing is, he’s a great finisher. I want him to be himself,” Thibodeau said. “He plays with emotion. The value of a dunk is pretty high when you look at the point value.
“So, I think the more he dunks, the better. I’m not for all the crazy stuff, but he’s gifted, and I don’t want to take his gift away from him.”
The 24-year-old Toppin listed his favorite dunkers of all-time as Vince Carter, Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon, Gerald Green and his father, longtime New York streetball legend Obadiah Toppin Sr., whose nickname was Dunker’s Delight.
Toppin said his dad can still dunk, but joked that he’d beat his father in a contest because “he can’t do all the crazy things he used to.”
Toppin also connected on 4 of 7 attempts from 3-point range in the win over the Pacers and finished with a team-high 24 points.
Thibodeau rested Evan Fournier on Friday, and he gave Julius Randle the day off from practice Sunday at Columbia. The coach said he’s unsure if any veterans will sit out the game Wednesday at Indiana or the preseason final Friday at the Garden against the Wizards.
Toppin, a Brooklyn native who attended Ossining High School in Westchester County, said he’s a fan of the Yankees, who will open the ALDS against the Guardians on Tuesday. He also threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field before a Mets game in August.
“We’re going to get on that Yankee field one day. It’s all right. We got to,” Toppin said, before he was asked about AL home-run record holder Aaron Judge. “He’s amazing. … He’s a great role model. Congrats to him and everything that’s coming his way.”