RJ Barrett couldn’t recall the last time he missed a game because of injury, but the Knicks rookie guard will miss at least a week with a sprained ankle he suffered Thursday night against the Suns.
The Knicks said their first-round draft pick will be reevaluated next Friday, but Barrett certainly will sit out Saturday’s home game against the 76ers, as well as their next two games against the Cavaliers and the Lakers.
As if anyone needed more reasons not to watch another spiraling season.
“We’ll have to go day by day and see how he progresses and how the injury heals,” interim coach Mike Miller said after practice Friday in Tarrytown. “He’s going to bounce back. He’s resilient. He’s always ready to play. Once he gets through this, give him a week or so and I’m sure he’ll be getting back to his routines of things. He’ll be fine.”
Miller also described the injury as a “high-ankle sprain,” however, so there hardly is any guarantee of that minimal time frame for the former Duke star to return to the lineup. Miller mentioned Reggie Bullock, who sat out Thursday’s loss with neck soreness, as the likely replacement for Barrett in the starting lineup against the Sixers.
Meanwhile, Kevin Knox, last year’s lottery pick, has started only four games this season, while second-year guard Allonzo Trier has totaled just 27 minutes in nine games (sitting out six others) since Jan. 1.
“Everybody’s in play,” Miller said. “We say this frequently. We’re going to have to see, what do we need with each particular game, what matchups do we think are good for which guys? We’ve got confidence in all those guys, so it could be an opportunity for somebody else to get more minutes.”
Barrett left Thursday’s home loss to the Suns in the third quarter shortly after turning his ankle while being fouled by Phoenix guard Ricky Rubio. Barrett briefly stayed in the game, but he limped off the court and departed the Garden on crutches. The No. 3-overall pick in the 2019 draft is averaging 14.1 points and 5.2 rebounds over 41 games.
“He’s a very talented player,” Bullock said. “He loves the game of basketball. He’s very competitive. He’s strong for a 19-year-old kid. And he’s coachable. He’s all about winning and trying to do whatever he can to help his teammates. He’s a good dude, and he’s gonna be around this league for a while.”
Miller said Barrett’s overall game had improved in recent weeks, as he averaged 19.0 points and 5.8 boards over his six previous appearances prior to Thursday’s early departure.
“His efficiency, his play, we’ve seen it really trending up,” Miller said. “He’s had good games from the very beginning. We’ve seen the maturity continue to increase. He’s played very efficiently here the last couple of weeks, for sure.”
Of course, that improvement hadn’t translated to more wins for the Knicks (11-31), who have lost seven of their past eight following a 6-6 stretch after Miller replaced David Fizdale in December.
“It’s a challenge. Always a challenge in the league, but we gotta adjust, gotta keep going,” Julius Randle said. “It doesn’t stop for us.”
Marcus Morris also missed five games with a neck injury before returning with a 17-point effort against the Suns. But other than Morris and Randle, the Knicks need someone to emerge as a viable scoring option in Barrett’s absence.
“It’s an opportunity for everybody to be able to get a chance to be able to use some of the minutes RJ was [playing] out there,” Bullock said. “Everybody, just as a team, collectively, we just have to play. We’re at a big part of the season right now, second half of the season, we just have to come together and put together some wins and start buying it in and doing it together as a team.”
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