Josh Hart Raises Major Concern After Knicks’ Consecutive Losses

Knicks' Josh Hart

Getty Josh Hart #3 of the New York Knicks attempts a layup during the first quarter of the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The New York Knicks are still in the thick of the fight for the third seed in the Eastern Conference despite back-to-back heartbreaking losses to San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

But the bad news is they might have to carry on with the remainder of the season without their two key starters — Julius Randle (right shoulder) and OG Anunoby (right elbow), a possibility that Knicks do-it-all forward Josh Hart raised after their 113-112 loss to the Thunder on March 31.

“I’m looking at it like this is the team we’re going to have,” Hart told reporters. “I think that’s how we have to approach it. That those guys aren’t coming back and we’ll be pleasantly surprised if they come back.”

Randle has been out since January 27 and hasn’t progressed to full-contact drills. Anunoby has missed the last seven games after experiencing inflammation in his surgically repaired elbow following a brief 3-game return.

“I’m not in those medical conversations or anything like that, so I don’t know [expletive] from [expletive]. But we’ve got to approach every game and the end of this season that those guys aren’t coming back, and if they do, be pleasantly surprised,” added Hart, who had 13 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists against the Thunder.

Knicks’ Back-to-Back Heartbreaker

The Knicks appeared on track to grab sole possession of the third seed in the East when Jalen Brunson’s tough drive to the basket gave them a 112-111 lead with 4.1 seconds left.

But Thunder’s MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander answered with a turnaround jumper with 1.8 seconds remaining.

The Knicks had a last chance to get the win but Brunson missed a tough fallaway jumper in the face of Gilgeous-Alexander at the buzzer.

The loss dropped the Knicks 44-30, a half-game behind the third-seed Cleveland Cavaliers (45-30) and one game ahead of the fifth-seed Orlando Magic (43-31).

Brunson led all Knicks scorers with 30 points, two nights after his career-high 61 points also was flushed down the drain in a 130-126 overtime loss to the Spurs.

Julius Randle and OG Anunoby Remain in the Same Boat

The back-to-back heartbreakers are the least of the Knicks’ concerns right now. Their health with eight games left before the playoffs begin is becoming a cause of concern.

“We just deal with reality,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters, per ESPN, before the Knicks-Thunder game about Anunoby’s slow recovery from re-aggravating his elbow injury.

“You deal with it day-to-day. When he’s strong enough, he gets out there,” Thibodeau added.

More concerning is Randle’s status. The three-time All-Star forward has opted for rehab than a season-ending surgery for his dislocated right shoulder. His shooting drills before every Knicks game have become a regular staple. But he has yet to absorb full contact to test his right shoulder.

“Just keep doing what he’s doing, day-to-day,” Thibodeau said of Randle, per ESPN. “You never know when it turns. That’s basically the approach we take.

Rehab is really your game, so put everything you have into that. And eventually, you’ll get there; you can’t get discouraged; just keep working at it. The other guys, they have a job to do.”

Hart stepped up in a major way in Randle’s absence.

The 6-foot-4 Hart is averaging 11.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 40.8 minutes since Randle went down with the injury. His stellar play helped the Knicks keep afloat with a 15-13 record since then.

Read More