Theo Pinson’s sideline cheerleading keeps surging Knicks’ morale high

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Knicks guard Theo Pinson has only scored two points this season in 14 cameo appearances. But the Knicks organization feels Pinson is part of their rousing success.

Indeed, the calories the Knicks 15th man burns on the sidelines hopping, jumping, arm-waving and yelling is noteworthy. He’s been the ringleader of a jubilant bench joyfully bouncing around.

“It’s not like an act or I plan these things,’’ Pinson said after Monday’s morning shootaround before the Knicks hosted the Suns. “It’s who I am. I’m just going out there and encouraging my teammates to just show we appreciate how hard they’re playing. Because this season, guys are playing out of their minds.’’

The Knicks are 34-27 and riding a nine-game winning streak – not on talent alone. The players often talk about the club being as close-knit a group they’ve been part of.

“I try to make sure everyone – even Coach (Tom Thibodeau) – I try to make sure to put a smile on his face,’’ Pinson said. “Sometimes you get in the thick of things and put more pressure on yourself. That’s all we’ve been doing. We’re just having a good time, playing for each other. When one person does something we all get excited for him.’’

Two contributing factors to the Knicks’ growing so close may lie in the pandemic season conditions: 1. Players are trapped together in the hotel on road trips. 2. The swarming New York media is not permitted in the locker room this season – or even courtside before games.

That’s a lot of alone time for players in the locker room who – pre-pandemic – often hide in the trainer’s room to avoid the media.

But Pinson, too, is given credit for making the Knicks’ locker room a warm and fuzzy place this season.

When Leon Rose took over the presidency nearly 14 months ago, he told staffers one player he wanted for the locker room was Pinson, to jack up team morale.

It’s not dissimilar to when former Knicks president Steve Mills signed Ron Baker to a two-year, $8 million deal to be a bench jockey and team-oriented presence.

When Pinson, a former Rose client, was waived by the Nets in late June before the Orlando bubble restart, the Knicks claimed him.

Pinson eventually signed a two-way G League contract. But the Knicks never sent him to the G League bubble to work on his game. They wanted him on the bench with the guys.

The former University of North Carolina standout, who is friends with Chris Paul, is not just an animated sideline cheerleader. He also serves as another assistant coach.

“It’s having that extra voice out there to help you out,’’ Pinson said. “When you get tired, you start losing focus a little bit, might forget a coverage. When you have someone as loud as I am, I can project myself and help them out. It goes a long way.’’

Being a demonstrative bench presence is something he learned with the Nets from Jared Dudley his rookie season. “Having a vet like that, he was one of the vocal leaders for us when I was in Brooklyn,’’ Pinson said. “I took a lot from him.”

At 25 and in his third pro season, Pinson, a combo guard, has not given up on turning into rotation player.

“Understanding while watching the game, when my opportunity comes, I’ll be ready,’’ Pinson said. “Because I’m not just sitting on the bench cheering. I‘m giving constructive criticism and trying to help my teammates out.

“Of course I always want to play and be out there on the court,’’ Pinson added. “I’m a basketball player first. At the same time everybody’s role is important. When everyone understands that, that’s when teams are successful. That’s what’s making us great right now. Everyone’s bought into the team success. When you win, and you’re having fun, everyone gets rewarded at the end.’’

Pinson met Paul when he joined his Team CP3 AAU squad in Winston-Salem and they’ve remained “really close.”

“Chris Paul is a winner, bottom line,’’ Pinson said. “Wherever he goes.”

Because of Paul’s recommendation, Pinson hired Rose as his agent. The conspiracy theorist would suggest Pinson was signed as a conduit to draw Paul to New York. Ultimately Paul asked Oklahoma City management to deal him to the Phoenix Suns.

It’s worked out gloriously for all, as the Knicks savor their 9-game win streak – tops since 2013.

“We were talking about it in the locker room,’’ Pinson said. “Man, we won nine in a row. We need to enjoy we’ve won nine in a row. We don’t want to look back and say, man, I wished I enjoyed that moment more. I try to make sure everyone understands this is a very cool accomplishment right now.’’

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