Injuries suck, and they usually come at a very, very, very terrible time too. That’s what happened just yesterday, at the expense of the long-suffering New York Knicks franchise.
The Knickerbockers and their All-Star forward Julius Randle had bad luck during the second quarter of their game against the Miami Heat when the 28-year-old went up for a rebound and landed on his left foot awkwardly, likely due to stepping into Bam Adebayo’s foot. He left the game and even though they won, 101-92, he was unable to return.
Then, on Friday morning, the dreaded news came. NBA Insider Shams Charania confirmed that Randle is sidelined due to a sprained ankle and will be out for at least two weeks.
Hopefully, he can return as soon as possible because we all know how valuable he is to this Knicks squad, especially since the playoffs are right around the corner. Definitely a huge bummer.
Randle, as you know, is the marquee man in New York. He rightfully earned his second All-Star selection in February as he has re-established his presence following a forgettable 2021-22 campaign. Prior to Thursday’s mishap, he was putting up a career-high 25.4 points, alongside 10.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He’s clearly more confident in his shot too, and has more sweet spots than in season’s past.
But, yeah, the man is in recovery mode now, and the hot question is who will step up to fill the void? More importantly, though, will it be good enough while Randle is out?
Of course, point guard Jalen Brunson is the number one choice given how he’s the team’s second-leading scorer at 23.6 PPG, not to mention reliable in the clutch. Then again, should he be burdened with an expanded role in scoring if he’s already tasked with ball-handling and distributing the rock? It’s tricky because you don’t want to tire your floor general out. Maximizing his tank every time may cause turnovers and other problems.
Next, there’s RJ Barrett. He’s not pleasing the majority with all the consistently inconsistent stuff, but we all know he can be good. He has shown a knack for scoring in long stretches, like how he closed ‘21-22 by notching 24.6 PPG in the final 22 games of the regular season. Maybe he’ll be able to flex those scoring muscles again?
Their key sixth man Immanuel Quickley is also a top choice – he isn’t a leading 6MOY candidate for nothing. The former Kentucky standout has 14.2 points and 3.3 assists in 28.6 minutes, and has had very good showings here and there, most notably that career-high, 38-point outburst against the Boston Celtics. He puffed out his chest and just feasted on a high-ranked defensive team.
It can be a collective effort
It will be fun to have someone go on a tear to end the season, but the more probable route is to simply fill the void collectively – maybe even from Brunson down to the last man in the rotation. They may also just go all in on defense to counter the depleted offense? After all, it’s a Tom Thibodeaux-coached squad. It’s may also be fun to have some methodical, slow-the-pace five on the floor – just for a change.
Whichever it may be, let’s hope Randle gets healthy before the playoffs start. The 44-33 Knicks, who are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference, are looking like they’ll matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round – the Cavs are first in points allowed and defensive rating, and they maximize homecourt quite nicely.
It will be a battle, one that will obviously tougher if Randle is out or limited.