Knicks’ Julius Randle targeting return for Game 1 on Saturday, per report

Julius Randle injury Knicks
New York Knicks forward Julius Randle gestures after dunking on the Washington Wizards in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

FRIDAY UPDATE: ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Knicks forward Julius Randle is targeting a return for Saturday’s Game 1 against the Cavaliers. 


With the New York Knicks postseason journey beginning in just two days, the biggest question looming over the team is whether or not All-Star Julius Randle will be ready to go for Game 1. 

The forward has been on the shelf for the last two weeks after spraining his ankle in the second quarter of the Knicks’ 101-92 victory over the Miami Heat on March 29th. The team said at the time that he would be reevaluated in two weeks, and after Wednesday’s practice, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned that Randle is “doing well overall. He’s been cleared for parts of practice, but he hasn’t been fully cleared yet.” 

It appears as though one of the things that Randle has not been cleared for is taking contact, which could make it tough for him to return in just two days. 

When Thibodeau was asked directly about Randle’s status for Saturday night, he made it clear that it was “hard to say” and would only suggest that the team was taking it “day-by-day” but that he was encouraged that “each day [Randle’s] been better and better. If he’s ready, he’s ready. If he needs more time, we’ll give him more time.”

While Saturday will mark 17 days since Randle’s injury, which was originally expected to keep him out two weeks, reading the tea leaves seems to suggest that Randle could be a longshot to take the court for the Knicks. Being without the lefty would be a big blow since the 28-year-old leads the team with 25.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game

Obi Toppin would likely continue to start in his place given the size of the Cleveland Cavaliers; however, Thibodeau could decide to keep Immanuel Quickley in the starting lineup, sliding Quentin Grimes to small forward and RJ Barrett to power forward in more of a small ball lineup.

Toppin has performed admirably since Randle has been sidlelined, averaging 24.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in April, while shooting 41.2% from beyond the arc. Without Randle, the former 8th overall pick will likely be counted on for extra minutes, whether he’s in the starting lineup or not. The additional floor spacing he was able to give the team in April will be crucial, but he will also need to step up his defense and rebounding if he wants to help the Knicks take advantage of the matchup against the Cavaliers.

The good news for the Knicks is that Game 2 of the series isn’t set to take place until Tuesday, so if Randle is indeed unable to play in Game 1, he will have three more days to rest up in time for Game 2.

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