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Julius Randle avoids surgery, re-evaluation through All-Star break

Breaking news: Tough Randle is tough.

Miami Heat v New York Knicks Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

And on the fifth day, they spoke.

The New York Knicks finally released an official update on Julius Randle’s dislocated shoulder injury on Thursday, ahead of the matchup against the Pacers, stating the now-three-time All-Star forward will be “re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks,” teasing he didn’t undergo surgery following the injury suffered last Saturday in the victory over the Miami Heat.

As things stand, pending further updates (and don’t expect them coming before the All-Star break is over), it’s fair to assume that Randle and the Knicks, at least for now, have ruled out surgery to fix JR’s shoulder injury whether that means it’s not required or simply the player refusing to go under the knife, something that would most probably lead to ruling him out for the remainder of the season.

Given the provided timeline, the Knicks should hand out another update right after the break, with that one-week gap in the 2-to-3 week span falling right during the time the NBA will go on hiatus for the mid-season festivities to be held in Indiana this year.

The Knicks’ last game before the All-Star Break is scheduled for Feb. 14 in Orlando against the Magic, and the franchise will be off through Feb. 21 before returning to action on Feb. 22 when they’ll pay a visit to the Sixers in Philadelphia.

The former date marks two weeks from Thursday’s statement, and Feb. 21 would mean a three-week wait for the next update on Randle’s status. In other words, the Knicks played it safe, but great nonetheless. Kudos to the PR team.

Coach Tom Thibodeau touched on the situation of his forward on Thursday ahead of the win over the Pacers, saying he didn’t know “the specifics on it,” but revealing that Randle’s rehab “has started” and that he “feels sorry for the [physical therapists]” because of “the way Jules works.”

Added Thibs: “[Randle is] upbeat and he’s feeling better, [taking] it day by day. Hopefully, everything goes well.

“You know his makeup. That’s what you love about the guy. It’ll be full-bore. He’ll give it everything he has to get back as quickly as he can. But we’re not going to put him in harm’s way. We’re going to make sure he’s healthy before he gets out there. But we’re encouraged.”

Following the initial tests ran on the same Saturday Randle went down injured, it was believed that Randle had not sustained major structural damage and thus he could avoid surgery. The team reportedly felt optimistic about his return later this regular season, per multiple sources close to the franchise, which meant surgery was (we have to assume) in fact not necessary.

Adam Zagoria of NJ.com discussed the update in an article published after the Knicks released their note while also featuring comments emailed to him by Dr. Michael Alaia, Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Langone Orthopedics.

“Most likely, since it was said that his return would just take a few weeks, is that the injury is isolated mainly to the labrum and ligaments holding the shoulder in place and does not significantly involve the rotator cuff,” Alaia wrote. “If this is true, [Randle] can be expected to be out for 2-4 weeks.”

Zagoria asked him if the Knicks can expect a fully available Randle back once/if he makes his return, to which the doctor replied “Ideally, yes, he will return to 100 percent, but nothing is ever guaranteed.

The doctor, however, warned that surgery might eventually have to happen, whether that comes this summer or later throughout Randle’s career. “One of the biggest issues with a shoulder dislocation in a contact athlete is a recurrent dislocation, which can happen as often as 85-90% during the course of a lifetime,” he said.

“As the shoulder continues to dislocate, other structures can become damaged,” Alaia continued. “Recurrence usually requires surgery to prevent more and more dislocations and further damage.”

With the Knicks taking their time to provide the first update and coach Thibs letting it slip that Randle is already working on his rehab and aiming at a return later this season, it’s fair to assume that’d be the case and Randle will play before the postseason starts in late April.

Even in a near-worst-case scenario within the return boundaries, Randle should be able to play some games before the regular season enters the home stretch in April (Randle’s injury was said to be expected to take “weeks, not months” for him to recover from) and that would allow him to gear up for the playoffs and get some run before the real fight for the chip starts later this year.

Here’s hoping for a full recovery in time for the postseason run. It looks like the Knicks don’t need JR—or anyone, for that matter—given their ridiculous run of results of late, but you bet they will once we reach April and May.