The Knicks have managed to avoid the massive shutdowns from COVID-19 outbreaks that some teams have been subjected to this season, but at a critical juncture in the schedule, they lost another player Friday.
While Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau revealed that a number of players and staff had been vaccinated, Alec Burks was ruled out against Dallas because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
"I think we have a number of players who have gotten vaccinated," Thibodeau said. "In terms of Alec, we’ll just make sure we’ll follow the guidelines. And it’s pretty common right now – you see that there are a number of players that it’s happened to throughout the course of the season. When you start off the season, you prepare for all these situations and you follow the guidelines. That’s why you have a team and we’re very confident in our bench.
"I’m not sure how many have gotten it but I know a number have. So I think like everyone, like the rest of the country, that’s what everyone’s moving towards and hopefully, we can get back to normal at some point.
The Knicks did not disclose if Burks tested positive for the virus. He played Wednesday in New Orleans, contributing 14 fourth-quarter points in a 21-point effort that helped lead them to victory. Earlier this season, Frank Ntilikina had to quarantine at a Miami hotel after being in close contact with someone outside the organization who tested positive. Later, Derrick Rose was lost for 10 games and 25 days when he contracted the virus.
If Burks is lost for a similar period of time, the Knicks could find themselves navigating much of the remaining schedule without him. A three-week absence would mean he could be back for the final five games. Even a 10-day absence would mean he would miss six games.
Ready for any role
Taj Gibson was a last-minute addition to the starting lineup Wednesday in New Orleans when Nerlens Noel was scratched with a sore right ankle. Noel was back in the starting lineup Friday, but Gibson, who has played for Tom Thibodeau in three stops in his career, said being a reserve doesn’t bother him.
"I’ve been in a situation with Thibs my whole career, understanding whether I’m coming off the bench or starting, maybe not playing," Gibson said. "But whenever my number is called, I’m ready to play. My teammates kind of know that about me by now, and you never know, with this team or the NBA, I’m just always ready for that opportunity. But the main thing is I’m playing for my teammates and we’re playing for each other and it makes my job a lot more easier."
Roster spot open
With his 10-day contract up, John Henson was not brought back for a second try. Henson did not play at all, suffering a calf strain in his first workout. The Knicks are expected to add a player but likely would not bring in another big man with Norvel Pelle having signed a second 10-day contract. If Burks is out for a long stretch, they would likely look into bringing in a guard.