Knicks forward Julius Randle looks on during a timeout against...

Knicks forward Julius Randle looks on during a timeout against the Pistons in the second half of an NBA game at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

They have been without him for more than a third of their season.

Wednesday is the two-month anniversary of Julius Randle’s shoulder injury, and it still is not clear when the Knicks’ All-Star forward will be back on the court and what condition he will be in when he returns.

Shortly after Randle dislocated his right shoulder in a win over the Miami Heat on Jan. 27, the team announced that he would be re-evaluated in two to three weeks. Those weeks have now stretched into months and it sounds as if Randle still isn’t close to returning.

Before Monday’s win over Detroit, coach Tom Thibodeau said that Randle has “ramped it up some” but still hasn’t been cleared for contact.

“He is feeling better,” Thibodeau said. “And that’s a good sign. There’s no live contact or anything like that.”

Thibodeau clarified that there has been no setback, but he is basically in the same place he has been for a couple weeks.

“He has to keep working it,” Thibodeau said, “and you never know when it turns.”

Randle was a dominating force at the time of his injury. Having undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle in the offseason, he struggled in his first six games of the season. In his next 40 before the shoulder injury, however, Randle averaged 25.5 points and 9.0 rebounds.

Thibodeau, who loves to play his starters major minutes, acknowledged that he might have to cut back on Randle’s floor time in the beginning. “You just deal with your reality. So when guys do come back, you see where they are,” Thibodeau said. “We’re always going to prioritize the team. So whatever contributions they can make to help the team, that’s where we’ll go. And if it doesn’t help the team then we’re not going to do it.”

Without Randle, the Knicks have gone 14-11 heading into Wednesday’s game at Toronto. Jalen Brunson has become a star and role players such as Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo and Deuce McBride have taken on big-time roles.

They have also managed to end up in the same approximate place in the Eastern Conference standings. When Randle was injured, the Knicks were tied for third place with the 76ers. Heading into Wednesday night’s play, the Knicks are in fourth place, just a half-game behind third-place Cleveland.

“I think what we’re proving night in and night out is that we come to play with any lineup and win games still,” DiVincenzo said before scoring a career-high 40 points against the Pistons Monday night. “Here we are still in the hunt even with a bunch of injuries, and we’re getting guys back. Our reinforcements are coming. With that understanding, we just have to keep playing well.”

Though it’s sounding as if Mitchell Robinson could be back any day now, he, Randle and OG Anunoby are all out for Wednesday’s game. Alec Burks, who sat out against the Pistons with a right shoulder sprain, was upgraded to questionable.


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