Would it be better if we had substantial news to report? Probably. Are we sure, though? I’d say not so much, considering the Knicks decided to remain silent through Sunday without announcing the gravity of Julius Randle’s injury, potentially hinting at the release of extraordinary bad news today or later this week.
Randle, a two-time All-Star nothing-but-assured to make his third appearance in the mid-season showcase this year, dislocated his right shoulder on Saturday’s game against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden, one the Knicks won to make it six dubs in a row. The injury happened with 4:27 minutes remaining in the game and New York leading by 17 points.
Randle couldn’t shoot his free throws and was thus ineligible to return later that game. No matter, however, as he’s already been ruled out (per the official NBA Injury Report) for Monday’s matchup at Charlotte and he’s most probably going to miss a few weeks, if not months, if not the entire season if he has to go under the knife.
Now, mind you, all of the above is simply pure guessing. That’s because the Knicks, who were expected to provide an update on Randle’s injury through Sunday following an MRI scheduled for late Saturday, didn’t release any information about Randle and his injury.
To the people asking me: No, I do not yet know the results of Julius Randle's MRI. Against popular thought, reporters usually don't find out important information and then hoard it for themselves instead of informing the public. Once I know, I will tell you.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) January 28, 2024
Things got quite agitated in the interwebs as the skies started to go dark on Sunday, with former New York Post and Knicks beat writer Marc Berman hitting the spotlight on X.
We miss you, Marc.
Fred’s a nice guy but this shows angst of an NBA beat writer. Waiting by phone all day Sunday for a Randle update from Knicks PR that never came. Doesn’t seem like a good sign though. https://t.co/MbGHTya8y9— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) January 29, 2024
Anyway, no update. And speaking about Berman and his former employers, Marc W. Sanchez of the same New York Post spoke to a couple of orthopedic surgeons (not related to the Knicks nor hired by the franchise) about Randle’s outlook and potential recovery timeline depending on what he and the Knicks do next: Dr. Dennis DeBernardis, who “specializes in shoulder and elbow surgery,” and Dr. Clint Soppe, who is a specialist in “sports medicine and shoulder injuries.”
According to DeBernardis, per the Post, with dislocations “there is nearly always some amount of damage to the labrum.” If that turns out to be the case, then Randle will need to choose between treating the injury with or without surgery.
DeBernardis thinks that if Randle doesn’t undergo surgery, then “he can come back to playing once he has full range of motion, full strength and no pain,” with a recovery timeline that could take “up to two to three weeks.”
The other expert contacted by the Post provided an interesting case similar to Randle in order to come up with some expectations and a recovery timeline: Dwyane Wade’s 2007 injury. He missed 23 games through 6.5 weeks rehabbing his shoulder but didn’t undergo surgery until after the playoffs.
Soppe, whoever, warned that if Randle doesn’t undergo surgery he could “be putting himself in harm’s way.” According to Soppe, when soft tissue is damaged, if not fixed, “you’re at risk to dislocate it again.” Thus, he thinks it is possible the Knicks “recommend surgery to fix soft-tissue damage.”
In this case, according to DeBernardis, a “really quick recovery” could take “under three months, but that would be uncommon.” Soppe offered a more realistic timeline of “four-to-six months” of recovery time after going under the knife.
With no definitive Julius Randle injury update, I spoke with @emacSNY about replacing Randle in the short term (Josh Hart/Quentin Grimes?) and, before the Randle injury, some support within NYK of standing pat at the deadline: pic.twitter.com/jA2SjF9t24— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 29, 2024
Although both experts seemed to agree in not labeling this injury a “career-ender” type of issue, no matter how Randle approaches dealing with it, it’s fair to assume the forward will miss all of February’s matchups, most probably the remainder of the regular season (ending Apr. 14) and potentially the full campaign, postseason included.
With Randle out and the Knicks lacking reserves at the power forward position, head coach Tom Thibodeau will need to come up with creative solutions to fix the hole opened by this injury.
Ian Begley of SNY reported on Sunday that the lack of news coming from New York might mean that Randle has decided to avoid surgery for now, although the report didn’t “want to jump the gun” with that conclusion.
More interestingly, he reminded the Knicks’ interest in new Toronto Raptors guard Bruce Brown Jr., who might be explored as a potential trade candidate ahead of the Feb. 8 deadline.
For the first time this season, Begley dropped a new name that could help the Knicks deal with Randle’s absence: Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes, who Begley said “is available.”
Begley also said that before Randle’s injury last Saturday, he had heard that “there was some thought internally about ‘sticking together’ and not doing so much at the deadline.” That comes from the team playing “so well in the wake of the OG Anunoby trade,” said Begley.
When it comes to in-house options, starting with Monday’s lineup to face the Hornets on the road to kick the week off, Begley reported that Thibs is considering two options: either starting Josh Hart (Begley’s favorite to earn the call) or bringing back Quentin Grimes to the starting five.
One thing is obvious and that’s the Knicks are going to downsize their lineups no matter what they choose to do for now. Inserting Precious Achiuwa in the starting five feels like a stretch, and there are no other players above 6-8 in the Knicks roster (Sims is 6-10, Hartenstein measures at 7-0), so OG Anunoby (6-7) moving up to the PF position would force 6-5 Grimes or 6-4 Hart into the SF position.
Do the Knicks call Jacob Toppin up from Westchester? Do they use a mammoth frontcourt featuring Sims at the four and I-Hart at the five? Do they move on from strengthening the backcourt (as most expected before last weekend) via trade and instead chase a big man? Do they... stand pat?
What will the Knicks do next? We can only guess...