Derrick Rose relates to rookie Jericho Sims because he’s ‘an introvert,’ Knick vet says

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WASHINGTON — It was during a short break in Saturday’s game, when Derrick Rose took rookie Jericho Sims under the basket for a vet-to-rookie lesson.

As he’d done with his previous center teammates, Rose explained that he’s unpredictable once airborne with the ball and Sims should never assume to the point of turning away. It was a full-on interactive demonstration from Rose, the leader of Knicks’ second unit who also sees a little bit of himself in Sims.

“He’s an introvert. And that’s why I can tell and relate to him in a way,” Rose said. “It’s kind of weird that we have that relationship because he’s way bigger than me. But I can see it.”

So what was the message between introverts?

“I told him no matter what, if I got the ball, if I jump in the air, always pay attention to me until I get rid of the ball,” Rose said. “Because sometimes I jump in the air and just to throw a fake pass just to give it to him for a lay-up. So just telling him everything I told Joakim [Noah] or any other big that I played with: to always keep their eyes on me so that they could get easy baskets.”

Sims, 22, was the third-to-last draft pick in the second round this summer, but has been the only Knicks rookie with meaningful minutes in preseason. His opportunity was spawned by injury, with center Mitchell Robinson out indefinitely and Nerlens Noel nursing a sore knee.

As he also exhibited in Summer League, Sims showed he can hang physically with the professionals, giving the Knicks an active defender and efficient finisher at the rim. He is averaging 7.5 points and 9.5 rebounds on 60% shooting while playing alongside Rose, with the Knicks outscoring the opposition by 14 points in Sims’ 51 minutes.

But the Minneapolis product with a pogo-stick vertical is also, as Rose noted, an introvert. It was evident during his very brief and stoic-faced media session following the draft. And while nailing an interview isn’t important for a rookie center, the defensive anchor needs to be more expressive.

“My job of being a vet is trying to get him to break out of that shell because as a big you have to be able to talk and communicate,” Rose said. “And [coach Tom Thibodeau] is not going to allow him to be quiet on the court. So it’s my job to help the big guy with that.”.

Sims fits the mold of a dirty-work center who cleans the glass, dunks and throws his body around. He’s strong but doesn’t shoot outside the paint and probably doesn’t offer the same top-flight rim protection as Robinson or Noel.

So finding time in the regular season will be difficult. Assuming his teammates good health, Sims is probably fourth on the center depth chart behind Noel, Robinson and Taj Gibson.

Sims signed to a two-way contract after the draft, which typically means reps in the G League. But Thibodeau’s philosophy is that practicing with the senior squad is more valuable than game-time at a lower level.

Rose’s lesson Saturday in Washington underscored the significance of a presence around teammates. And Sims is taking advantage of the opportunities.

“He’s a great big,” Rose said. “He has a lot of potential.”

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