Knicks All-Star Julius Randle Could Miss Start of Playoffs

Julius Randle injury, New York Knicks

Getty New York Knicks forward Julius Randle

New York Knicks All-Star forward is done for the remainder of the regular season and could potentially miss the start of the first round of the playoffs.

The Knicks announced on Thursday that Randle had sustained a sprained left ankle and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Randle suffered the injury with 2:38 remaining in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat.

The Knicks survived the night without Randle and clinched their season series against the Heat with a gritty 101-92 win. The victory gave them a firm grip on fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a 3.5-game lead over their crosstown rivals Brooklyn Nets.

Dr. Evan Jeffries, a Sports Injury Analyst and owner of Evolving Motion PT, immediately offered his thoughts about Randle’s injury.

When contacted by Heavy Sports, Dr. Evans said he wouldn’t be surprised if Randle will be limited in his movement if he gets back at some point during the playoffs.

“It’s a matter of getting [the ankle] swelling down, allowing for scaring of the ligament that has been stretched, and then regaining mobility and motion,” Dr. Evans told Heavy Sports. “Next step would be on court activities that are pain-free. Depending on the severity of his sprain, the timeline can vary.”

“Hopefully, he responds very well and can return in two weeks. More than likely, he will need some sort of support tape or brace so he can return earlier, in time for the playoffs. Often when players return early, there is an increased likelihood of another sprain. That’s why it’s important to protect it.”

The Knicks’ focus quickly shifted to their plans to soften the blow of Randle’s loss.

“[Injuries] are part of the game,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said during his postgame interview. “You deal with it. And now, focus on rehab. Get back as soon as you can. We just went through it with Jalen, so it’s the same thing. We can’t replace [Randle] individually. We have to do it collectively.”

The Knicks did it collectively in the second half to beat the Heat.

“We understand where we are and what we have to do,” Thibodeau added. “But we have more than enough on our bench. I thought our bench was terrific. So the next guy gets in there. Next man up. Get it done. And that’s the way we have to approach it.”

Next Man up

Replacing Randle’s All-Star numbers (25.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists) will be done by committee.

Obi Toppin is the obvious candidate to have the first crack. Long buried in the shadows of Randle, the former lottery pick has shown toward the end of last season that he is up to the challenge.

The high-flying Toppin averaged 20.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 10 games without Randle last season. When the Knicks shut down Randle over the final five games of last season, Toppin exploded. He averaged 27.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists during that span, punctuated by a career-high 42-point, 10-rebound performance in their season finale.

The last five games of the regular season, which Randle is expected to miss, will be crucial not only for the Knicks but also for Toppin, who is extension-eligible next summer.

All out, All Hart

Toppin’s meager playing time (14.4 minutes) this season should get a significant bump in the wake of Randle’s injury. But it’s not guaranteed.

Toppin will still have to earn it, especially after Thibodeau went with midseason acquisition Josh Hart at the four spot to close out the second half of Wednesday’s win.

Hart was outstanding in the fourth quarter with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and grabbed four rebounds. He wound up with 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

On the other hand, Toppin managed six points on 2-of-4 shooting from deep on top of three rebounds and four assists in 17 minutes.

“We have a lot of confidence in Obi (Toppin). We have a lot of confidence in Josh Hart at the four. We know Jericho (Sims) can play the four as well,” Thibodeau said. “So it’s different, but it’s still very effective.”

Life without Randle begins for the Knicks when they visit the fourth-seed Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday in a preview of a potential first-round matchup.



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