As knicks Emerge from break they are reportedly set for……..

As knicks Emerge from break they are reportedly set for……..

Few teams in any sport have needed a midseason timeout more than the Knicks, whose mounting injury situation resulted in six rotation regulars being sidelined for their final game before the All-Star break.

That shorthanded defeat in Orlando represented the Knicks’ fourth loss in a row and fifth in six games following the 15-2 run that briefly vaulted them within a half-game of the No. 2 playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

The recent slide has left them in the fourth spot, four games behind the second-place Cavaliers, and a half-game up on the 76ers with the Knicks (33-22) opening their final 27 games of the regular season Thursday night in Philadelphia.

First-half MVP

Just listening to the chanting crowds at the Garden, Jalen Brunson is fully worthy of this designation.

The deserving first-time All-Star might legitimately find his way into the league-wide conversation, too, if the Knicks regain health and secure no worse than a top-4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Brunson only has been the franchise’s best point guard since Walt Frazier, putting up 27.6 points and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 41.1 percent from 3-point range and providing a defining toughness and work ethic that New York sports fans always have appreciated.

Jalen Brunson
Jalen Brunson was the Knicks’ MVP in the first half of the season.AP

Least valuable player

No one on the current roster truly fits this category, so we’re going with departed veteran Evan Fournier, who appeared in only three games totaling 39 minutes before his $18.9 million expiring salary was attached in a trade-deadline deal.

Fournier, who set a franchise record with 241 made 3-pointers in 2021-22, didn’t make waves as he wasted away on the Knicks’ bench the past two seasons, although he said after getting moved to Detroit at the deadline that he was “really excited to finally be out of New York.”

Best moment

The Dec. 30 trade of former first-round picks RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to Toronto for OG Anunoby and rotation piece Precious Achiuwa was a bold move by team president Leon Rose.

He broke up part of the team’s existing core, but it resulted in a 14-2 record in January and another win to start February, with Anunoby providing the needed defensive boost and a whopping plus-minus of plus-252 in 14 games before departing the lineup and requiring Feb. 8 elbow surgery.

Earlier on the same day the Anunoby procedure was announced, Rose struck again by acquiring floor-spacers Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks from the Pistons in the deal that shipped out Fournier and Quentin Grimes at the deadline.

Worst moment

The Knicks’ Jan. 27 victory over the Heat at the Garden was doubly costly, marking the last time Anunoby and three-time All-Star forward Julius Randle have been in the lineup.

Randle suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the fourth quarter of that game, and his team-announced re-evaluation date is coming up this week.

OG Anunoby
OG Anunoby has not played since Jan. 27.Getty Images

The Knicks actually won their first three games without the frontcourt duo to extend their winning streak to a season-best nine games, but they dropped five of their last six games before the break as other injuries — including to Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Isaiah Hartenstein and others — mounted.

Biggest surprise

What felt like the first devastating injury for the Knicks this season, starting center Mitchell Robinson’s ankle surgery in early December, was lessened by the impact of Hartenstein at both ends of the floor.

The former backup big man averaged 8.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and more than one block and one steal over 24 starts before missing the final three losses before the break with a recurring Achilles issue, which the Knicks have to hope subsided with the time off over the break.

Most important question in the second half

Isaiah Hartenstein
Isaiah Hartenstein’s health is one of the biggest questions facing the Knicks in the second half of the season.Getty Images

The Knicks fully looked like a team ready to challenge the top teams in the East before the injuries derailed them, but they can get back on track if Hartenstein, DiVincenzo (hamstring) and Bogdanovic (calf) are able to return as soon as Thursday’s road game against the Sixers, who have been without reigning MVP Joel Embiid (knee) since Jan. 30.

Of course, while those reinforcements will be needed for short-term sustainability, the eventual returns of Randle and Anunoby — and maybe even Robinson — will be key to any prolonged playoff run.

This storyline bears watching

It will be incumbent on head coach Tom Thibodeau to integrate the new rotation pieces once closer to or at full strength. Bogdanovic and Burks will need to be meshed into a second-unit mix with versatile wing Josh Hart, while also finding playing time for either Achiuwa or reserve point guard Miles McBride, depending on matchups.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *