Even as Kemba Walker sat out his third straight game with a sore left knee the Knicks received some good news. Back from the four-game road trip, Walker was examined by team doctors and the tests revealed no structural damage.
Walker was a late scratch in Oklahoma City Friday and then sat out the last game of the trip in Toronto. This came after playing back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday on the road — the second time he’s played back-to-back games this season after not playing on consecutive nights last season at all.
"It came back positive — so just soreness," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He warmed up in OKC, tweaked something. He’s got some soreness so we’ll let it clear up and then we’ll go from there."
Cleared for action
Sunday the Knicks had five players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but when game time came Tuesday the Knicks had no one left in protocols. Wayne Selden was cleared and waived Monday and then Tuesday the Knicks had Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims clear out of protocols.
The Knicks have had 11 players in protocols this season as well as three coaches, but all were back with the team Tuesday. Noel was held out of action to continue conditioning.
"When they come back you do just want to get a look at it — where they are conditioning-wise," Thibodeau said. "You don’t have an idea. The big thing is we all know. It impacts everyone differently.
"I think that’s been the challenge for the season is how quickly can you adapt. Everyone’s got different guys out at different times. Sometimes it’s injury, sometimes it’s COVID. So whatever it is we have to understand what we have to do to win. Everyone is capable of playing defense, everyone is capable of rebounding, everyone is capable of taking care of the ball. And if we do those things we’ll be in position to win so just get in there and get the job done."
The one player still waiting, Noel, was in longer than Randle and Robinson.
"He’s cleared and he’s doing more," Thibodeau said. "But he needs a little more time."
Rookie Miles McBride started the last two games in Walker’s absence, but Tuesday Thibodeau inserted Alec Burks in the starting lineup. Burks had started the 10 games that Walker was out earlier this season when Thibodeau had him at the end of the bench.
"The thing is I like the versatility because we have Alec, we have [McBride], we have [Immanuel Quickley]," Thibodeau said. "So I feel like we have versatility, but you’re always looking to add people and playmaking. Julius gives us a different dimension because he can handle the ball as well. Whatever we have that’s what we’ve got to take advantage of."
The Knicks are expected to add Ryan Arcidiacono to a 10-day contract by Thursday. The team had announced a signing of him as a 10-day hardship deal but the NBA vetoed it because the Knicks had cleared their players out of protocols and could not qualify for a hardship. He can be signed to a normal 10-day contract starting Thursday.