GREENBURGH, N.Y. — With six players still in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and Derrick Rose’s availability for Tuesday night’s contest against the Pistons a game-time decision, the Knicks are looking for help anywhere they can get it.
They had only 10 players available for Monday’s practice as Miles McBride, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox remain in the COVID-19 protocols.
The lack of manpower means Kemba Walker could start for the second straight game Tuesday, though that likely depends on the condition of Rose’s ankle.
With Rose out on Saturday, Walker played for the first time since Nov. 26 after being out of the rotation for 10 straight games. After scoring 29 points in the 114-107 loss, he told reporters that he hated being stuck on the bench.
Tom Thibodeau said Monday that he understands that Walker would feel that way.
"Well, that’s who he is. I have an appreciation for that," he said. "With all players, there’s going to be frustrations. I have great respect for Kemba."
Some interpreted Walker’s postgame comments to mean that he and Thibodeau had stopped talking since Thibodeau yanked him out of the starting lineup. Thibodeau was asked about that characterization Monday.
"I talk to the team and then I talk to every player appropriately," he said. "That’s what the head coach’s job is. But I have an appreciation for frustration. He’s an accomplished player. I have to do what I think is best for the team. And that’s how I’m going to make my decisions."
Thibodeau was noncommittal when asked if Walker had showed him anything with his 29-point game.
"I look at how the team plays," he said. "There were some good things, obviously some things we have to do a lot better. At the end of the day, we lost the game. We have to win. It’s not about individuals. It’s about the team."
At this point, the team is not playing well with or without Walker. After opening the season with a 5-1 record, the Knicks have gone 8-16. They have lost eight of their last 10 games.
Julius Randle said after Monday’s practice that it was good to see Walker back on the court.
"He brings a lot of juice to us with his shot-making ability, passion for the game," Randle said.
"I love competing with him out there. So he was great for us. A true professional, being out as many games as he was and coming in and being prepared and being ready."
Notes & quotes: The Knicks, like many teams with multiple players in the COVID-19 protocols, likely will bolster their ranks by adding players through the league’s hardship exemption. There were several reports that they were going to sign former Knick Damyean Dotson and Matt Mooney, a shooting guard on Mexico City’s G League team, to 10-day hardship deals. A league source, however, said Monday night that neither player had been signed. Mooney, a 6-3 shooting guard, has played in a total of four NBA games, all for Cleveland during the 2019-20 season.