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Jimmy Butler not worried about Thibs; Julius Randle’s status remains “up in the air”

The Knicks promised an update. Jimmy Buckets was the one delivering it

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Minnesota Timberwolves v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Before eliminating the Cleveland Cavaliers from the NBA playoffs, and midway through Game 5 of the Eastern Conference first-round series, All-Star forward Julius Randle was putting on a masterclass.

This being the Knicks, something bad had to happen. That’s how we ended up looking at Randle going down late in the second quarter after stepping on the foot of Caris LeVert.

As Joe put it, “Randle was bullying the Cavs’ bigs at the rim on his way to 13 points” when he had to leave the court.

As I wrote, Thibs had revealed Randle’s shaky status following Game 4, acknowledging the All-Star forward was “still playing through pain” and hoping he could “play better” entering Game 5 with a couple of days of rest before tip-off on Wednesday.

Randle popped up in the bench already in street clothes and still in visible pain at the start of the fourth quarter. Thibs didn’t offer any more info after the game other than saying Randle “will be re-evaluated on Thursday.” Ian Begley of SNY tweeted that the forward “was walking cautiously in the post-game locker room,” and that “the early impression is the sprain is not as severe as Randle’s prior ankle ailment.”

In his post-game presser, Thibs said that the Knicks “were hopeful that it’s not bad.”

If you have checked the calendar, you might have realized it’s Friday and the New York Knicks have offered no update on Julius Randle. Welp.

Peter Botte of the New York Post provided some more information in the early morning of Friday, though, saying that Randle’s status ahead of Sunday’s matinee Game 1 against the Miami Heat “remains up in the air.”

The Knicks will return to practice Friday inside the Tarrytown facilities, so we’ll know more as the day advances—if only about Randle’s presence on the training courts or his entire absence from them.

This development is surely not one the Knicks will welcome with open arms, not after shutting down Jericho Sims for the remainder of the playoffs with season-ending shoulder surgery.

Sims played more than 15 minutes in 26 games this season with New York getting a 15-11 record in those matchups. The Knicks went 16-10 in the 26 games in which he played fewer than 15 minutes. The record sat at 16-14 in the 30 games in which Sims didn’t play at all—not including the 4-1 against the Cavs in the playoffs.

Obviously, Sims had not even logged a minute in the post-season with Randle, Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson, and Isaiah Hartenstein manning the forward/big roles for the Knicks. But the depth is starting to look thin as hell entering a tough semifinals.

Toppin, Randle’s main replacement in the rotation, said after Wednesday’s clincher that his approach “is the same every time I enter the game,” and that he always feels like he knows “what I got to do.”

“Be aggressive, bring a lot of energy and have fun and definitely play defense,” Toppin said.

One player that surely is “not worried” about this matchup with the Knicks, let alone about his former head coach is Jimmy Butler, he of the multiple Buckets.

“I’m not worried about Thibs,” Butler said Wednesday after finishing the no. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks’ season.

Butler has a long past and a deep connection to Thibs. Both shared time in Chicago and Minnesota, but Butler seems to have flipped the page on that relationship entirely and doesn’t feel like giving too much of a damn about the Knicks vs. Heat narrative, either.

Asked about the upcoming series, Butler said, “Honestly, you’re asking the wrong person.”

The wing said that he “doesn’t care who we play,” as he thinks the Heat “just got to beat them four times.”

Butler kept going: “I understand you’re trying to hype it up, but we’re going to go out there and compete. We’re going to be the better group. And we’re going to be together through good and through bad, just like we were in [the series against the Bucks].

“So whether we play in Miami, whether we play in the Garden or we play in Rucker Park, we need to win four games,” Butler concluded after dropping 56, then 42 points in back-to-back games against Milwaukee.

Miami won’t have Victor Oladipo (season-ending surgery on his left knee) and Tyler Herro (right-hand surgery; six weeks) available for the series against the Knicks tipping off Sunday.

Not that they need them, judging by what Jimmy B has done of late and the confidence he’s oozing these days.

“I’m just in a groove. I’m in a rhythm,” Butler said. “I’ve been shooting the ball an incredible amount this series, but I feel like they’re all shots I know that I can make, and my teammates keep telling me to shoot the ball more, attack.”

As Butler put it: “If I’m scoring, if I’m defending, rebounding, whatever it may be, we’ve just got to win—win at all costs, and that’s what we did.”

The Heat multi-time All-Star said that Miami‘s players “don’t listen to the outside noise” and “will not listen to any outside noise.”

Speaking about the matchup against the Knicks part of the ECSF, Butler said that the Heat “are going to do what we do, to learn from our mistakes and get better, and take the series like we took this one.”

Do you want to know more about Miami’s game plan for Sunday’s matinee and beyond? Veteran Kyle Lowry has it for you. “We kind of just stayed the course. Never too up. Never too down,” Lowry said ($).

“And we’ve got Jimmy Butler.”

One, two, three! Knicks in four! Let’s goooo!