Kemba Walker of the Knicks dribbles the ball against the...

Kemba Walker of the Knicks dribbles the ball against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021. Credit: Errol Anderson

Tom Thibodeau mentioned Wednesday night that Julius Randle was "nicked up,’’ but the COVID test that put him in quarantine caught him by surprise.

"It is what it is," Thibodeau said. "There’s nothing you can do other than follow the guidelines. You want everyone to be healthy. You want them to be safe. That’s your first concern. Forget the basketball part of it, take care of yourself."

With Friday night’s 95-80 loss to the Thunder ending just hours before the ball would drop on New Year’s Eve, Thibodeau noted that there would be no parties for the Knicks. "We’ve tried to button it up more," he said. "It’s almost a bubble mentality."

Kemba Walker was a last-minute scratch after Thibodeau said 90 minutes before game time that he would start at point guard. The Knicks said he has a sore left knee.

He played back-to-back games in Minnesota and Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday but saw only 20 minutes of action on the second night.

Asked if Walker’s injury could be a serious issue, Thibodeau said, "I don’t know. He started his warmup and then he stopped, then [trainers were] looking at him. Just felt get him examined and we’ll go from there."

The Knicks did get Evan Fournier back in the lineup after he sat out Wednesday’s game with a sore right ankle.

Thibodeau lauded his reserves, saying: "That’s the great value of the guys who have been on the bench. They have done a terrific job, all of them. They put a lot of extra work in. They come in early to put in work as a group and I think it’s paid off. So when they’re plugged in, they’re ready to go. They’ve been terrific. Right now you see it all around the league. This is our reality."

Familiar face

With Thunder coach Mark Daigneault in health and safety protocols, the assignment has gone to former NBA guard Mike Wilks, who played for Thibodeau when Thibodeau was an assistant coach in Houston.

"Thibs actually coached me so I know the level of coach he is," Wilks said. "There are going to be a lot of adjustments."

"I coached him in Houston," Thibodeau said. "Terrific. They’ve got a great staff. It’s a great organization. Mark’s done a great job, their entire staff is excellent. Mike was a great player, quality player, great teammate, just a terrific human being on top of that."

Back again

With their first 10 days expiring Friday, Damyean Dotson and Matt Mooney officially signed second 10-day contracts with the Knicks.

Newsday LogoDON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access