Knicks expect RJ Barrett to return to lineup after All-Star break

The Knicks hosted the Nets Wednesday night at the Garden without RJ Barrett, but at least they expect their young rising wing to be ready to go as soon as they return from the NBA All-Star break this weekend.

“I do. He’s pretty close,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said before the Knicks’ terrible 111-106 loss to the Nets. “We just thought it best to go on the break.”

Barrett sat out against the Nets and coach Steve Nash, his sponsor. It was the fourth game in a row he had missed with a sprained ankle. He was injured in the last minute of a blowout loss to the Nuggets on February 8 and hasn’t played since. But now the Knicks have set a schedule and are anticipating Barrett’s return on Feb. 25 against the visiting Heat.

Barrett is averaging a career-high 18.0 points in 48 games. He added 5.7 boards and 2.6 assists.

RJ Barrett signs an autograph for a young Knicks fan during the Knicks’ 111-106 loss to the Nets.
NBAE via Getty Images

Center Nerlens Noel has missed a fifth straight game with left foot pain. Thibodeau hasn’t ruled out the possibility that the injury could plague the 27-year-old for the rest of the season, or even end up requiring surgery.

“Yeah, it’s ongoing, so they’re checking that out,” Thibodeau said. “I hope he responds better as time goes on.”

Thibodeau said the absence of veteran point guard Derrick Rose has impacted Obi Toppin’s production.

“These guys complement each other really well. You get speed game, you get multiple ball handlers, you can play dribble transfer game in pick and roll. You can play downhill,” Thibodeau said. “So this group had really good chemistry together. And whether it’s Nerlens or Taj [Gibson] Where [Mitchell Robinson]the center has always been perfect for this group.

“When you look at Derrick when he’s on the pitch and you look at the pluses and minuses of the players, he has a very positive impact. And he’s always been that way. Because he gives you the transition game, he gives you the transition game. gives pick and roll play, he can play with the ball, he can play without the ball, so that adds a lot to our team.

Toppin finished with eight points, four rebounds, one assist and one block in 11 minutes.

But Thibodeau has not committed whether Rose will be ready to return after the break.

“It’s hard to say,” Thibodeau said with a shrug. “He’s doing more and more, so we’ll see what he does during the break and how he feels after that.”

Immanuel Quickley, who has been mired in a deep slump, posted perhaps his best game of the season. The sophomore point guard, who was shooting 22.8 percent from the field in his last nine games, went 7-for-10, including 4-for-7 from deep, for 18 points.

Julius Randle on the Knicks’ position at the All-Star break: “It’s tough right now. Highs and lows. We have good times. We are in pain. But it’s hard. It’s hard. I feel like we should be better than where we are right now, obviously in terms of records, but we’re not. So we can’t dwell on it. I have to keep one foot in front of the other and keep trying to turn it around, keep trying to get it right.

New York Post

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