Obi Toppin eager for ‘fresh start’ with the Pacers after minutes issue with the Knicks

20 July 2023

LAS VEGAS — It was drawn up as the feel-good homecoming. A kid from Brooklyn. Grew up rooting for the Knicks. On the day Obi Toppin was drafted, he posted a picture of himself as a child wearing a Latrell Sprewell jersey.

“Meant to be,” he captioned the photo.

Except, it wasn’t. If anything, Toppin’s tenure in New York was doomed from the start. And on Sunday, the power forward reflected on the disappointing stint while fixed on the better fit in Indiana.

“All I can do is just do whatever the coach is asking me to do,” Toppin said when asked if either side could’ve done anything differently to make it work. “Whether that’s being out on the floor, having great energy, doing whatever I need to do to help the team win. I didn’t get the minutes I wanted. But now it’s a fresh start. I’m here in Indy. I got to work for everything I want. And I’m super excited to start.”

As he did during his three seasons with the Knicks, Toppin took the high road on contentious topics. His comment of “I didn’t get the minutes I wanted” was only noteworthy because it wasn’t something he’d ever previously acknowledged publicly.

So was he frustrated?

“I’m not going to say it’s super frustrating. Things happen for a reason,” he responded Sunday.

What about the heated argument with coach Tom Thibodeau in the locker room after a Game 4 loss against Miami?

“I’m not worried about the past anymore,” Toppin said. “Or worrying about that.”

What about alleged audio of the incident leaking months later online?

“I ain’t really see anything,” he said. “I ain’t on social media like that.”

Toppin pivoted all these answers to his excitement about the Pacers, which is sound logic for a few reasons: In Indiana, unlike New York, he won’t be playing behind Julius Randle so there’s more opportunities for playing time; In Indiana, unlike New York, the team is built on Toppin’s strengths of playing fast; And in Indiana, unlike New York, there’s a chance to land a big contract as he approaches free agency in 2024.

“It’s no secret, everybody knows what I do best on the court,” Toppin said. “Run the floor, energy guy, and this is a young group who likes to run. One of the fastest, if not the fastest, teams in the league last year. And so yeah I’m super excited to get some leak out dunks. You know Tyrese [Haliburton] is going to pass it.”

The Knicks essentially salary-dumped Toppin in the trade while taking back second-round picks in 2028 and 2029. So it was a favor to Toppin to send him to Indiana, where a “fresh start” felt necessary.

“This is a fresh start for me,” he said. “It’s going to be great, just because it’s something new I’m going into.”

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