GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks hope to have Derrick Rose and RJ Barrett back when they return from the All-Star break on Friday night against Miami at the Garden.
The operative word is "hope." Neither is definite to take the floor for the first of the Knicks’ 23 remaining games.
Rose, who has been out since Dec. 16 after ankle surgery, practiced the last two days.
"He did everything," coach Tom Thibodeau said on Thursday. "He was fine. We'll see where he is tomorrow. There’s a possibility [he will play]. We want to make sure he’s ready to go.
"The thing is, like, his conditioning. Obviously, there's nothing that you can do to replicate an NBA game. He’s taking on contact for the first time yesterday and today. [Previously] he’s been running on the court, shooting, doing drills, that sort of thing, but no contact. He's got to get the body used to taking the contact. So that's where we are."
Barrett, who has been out since Feb. 8 with a left ankle sprain suffered in the last seconds of a blowout loss, also is a "we’ll see tomorrow" against the Heat, who are tied with the Bulls atop the Eastern Conference at 38-21.
"Obviously, the record says how good they are," Thibodeau said. "They're sitting on top of the conference. Very well-balanced team. Very strong on both sides of the ball."
The Knicks (25-34) are 12th in the conference. Unless Rose can get back quickly and work some of the same magic he performed last season, the Knicks are unlikely to make even the play-in tournament.
"I think the break gives you an opportunity to take a step back," Thibodeau said. "We had a general meeting to start off just to talk about where we are and what we have to do. Moving forward on some things that we want to concentrate on and improve upon. But take it step by step. It's concentrate on practice today. The game tomorrow. And we go from there."
Kemba Walker is gone, having decided on Wednesday to shut it down for the rest of the season because of his ailing left knee.
Rose initially will come off the bench with Alec Burks starting at point guard. But expect Rose to be on the floor during fourth quarters to try to help the Knicks avoid the frequent last-quarter collapses that have turned wins into defeats.
"I think, when you have leads like that, it's control and manage the game," Thibodeau said. "That's a big part. Your point guards, it's a big responsibility. Obviously, it was disappointing that we didn't close those games out. But we did a lot of good things to build those leads, and then you’ve got to finish the game."
Another hope is that Rose will help newly minted Slam Dunk champion Obi Toppin and the rest of the Knicks’ reserves turn into the kind of potent second unit that led to many victories last season.
"Man, D-Rose is amazing," Toppin said. "He talks. He talks a lot. He gets everybody energized. He makes sure everybody is doing the right thing. He’s been gone for a minute. To have him back, it’s amazing."
That's the hope, at least.