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Ironman Mikal Bridges ready for Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks workload: ‘I’m fit for that’

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau
Tom Thibodeau (above) has a reputation for overworking his players, but new Knick Mikal Bridges isn’t shy about desire to play big minutes.
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remembers it like it was yesterday.

It was a March 20, 2022 matchup in Sacramento between the Kings and his Phoenix Suns, and for some reason, former Suns coach Monty Williams hadn’t taken him out of the game.

Bridges, who played that game with an illness and described himself as “sick as a bat” that night, took on the task of guarding Kings speed demon De’Aaron Fox.

He played 50 of the 53 possible minutes and scored 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting to help lead his Suns to a victory over a Western Conference playoff opponent.

On a chair, sprawled out gasping for air after completing the job, Bridges recalled Williams, who didn’t buy the sickness story, celebrating a job well done.

“So, I was sick as a bat, literally out there, couldn’t breathe, and I played 50-something minutes,” Bridges said during his introductory press conference at the Knicks’ Tarrytown training facility on Tuesday. “I was on a frickin’ chair after we won, laid out, and I think Monty didn’t think I was sick either, and he was like, ‘Look at him. That’s what we do.’

“I’m like let’s just get on this damn plane.”

This is why Bridges, who sees all the jokes about his new head coach Tom Thibodeau and his reputation for overworking players with heavy minutes loads, believes he is cut out for whatever minutes Thibodeau throws his way in Year 1 with the Knicks.

Bridges never missed a game at Villanova. He never missed a game in the NBA. And he joined a short list of players who appeared in 83 games in a season despite each team only playing 82.

Thibodeau is somewhere licking his chops, swooning at the idea of putting the NBA’s perennial Ironman on the court.

“I see all the jokes. I see them, but it’s great. Thibs is a great coach, and I think one thing: who doesn’t want to play all the time?” Bridges said. “Just who he is, how he embodies and how structured he is, that’s what I came from: That’s high school, college, and with coach Monty, as well. Just guys: I’m fit for that.

“I know everybody’s seen all the jokes about Thibs, but I’m like, ‘y’all must not have been watching me in Phoenix’ because coach Monty would play me 48 minutes and the man played me 50-something minutes against De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento, and y’all know how fast they play — and I was sick.”

DID NOT ASK OUT

For the third time, Bridges denied reports suggesting he forced a trade to New York or requested a trade from the Nets.

He first denied the allegations in a heartfelt Instagram post saying goodbye to Brooklyn.

Then he posted on X, formerly Twitter: “And yall mfs really think I got pull like that lol please be fr.”

But fans did not believe him given his ties to the core Knicks (Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo), and a report suggesting he forced a trade to Madison Square Garden set the Nets fan base ablaze.

Nets general manager Sean Marks said on Monday he and Knicks president Leon Rose spoke frequently over the weeks leading into the trade, and that the Knicks made their interest in Bridges well known.

Marks said he informed Bridges of the possibility of a trade. Bridges said he learned he was traded while in Dallas with his friend Desmond Bane, who saw the alert on social media.

“Sean said everything. I tried to say as much as I can when I was tweeting about things and my Instagram post,” Bridges said on Tuesday. “It’s just not who I am. It’s not. That’s what it is. I’m happy Sean had a chance to tell everybody. No matter what you’re going to say, they’re not going to believe you. I keep telling the truth but [nobody believes me].”

EXCITED TO BE A KNICK

Before Bridges fielded questions on Tuesday, he took a moment to make a statement.

“I’m excited to be here. Excited to be a Knick. Excited to play at MSG. Excited to see my guy Spike [Lee] courtside. I don’t know, it’s just great to be here,” he said. “Obviously, just the team we have. Thibs and everybody. I want to thank a lot of people. I want to thank Leon [Rose], thank my agents Sam and Jordan. Want to thank the Nets organization, everybody. They’ve been great since I’ve been there. Just really appreciative and excited to get to work. Just hate that it’s the summer because you’ve gotta wait a long time to play. But really excited.”

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