GREENBURGH, N.Y. — As the Knicks worked through practice Friday afternoon, trying to put aside the memories of another one-sided loss, they did it without RJ Barrett. He was getting the news that he will be sidelined for at least a week before his sprained right ankle is re-evaluated.
So with an 11-31 record, seven losses in their last eight games and another hard stretch of schedule in front of them, the Knicks will be without their rookie lottery pick for a while.
Durability had been Barrett’s most consistent claim this season, and really during his entire high school and college career. Now it is yet another setback in the Knicks’ plans for this season and whatever lies ahead.
At least last season, they could claim to be committed to player development, benching or waiving veterans to make room for young players on the roster. But with Barrett sidelined, interim coach Mike Miller said the immediate plan is to insert Reggie Bullock into the starting lineup. The Knicks will be starting four veterans on one-year deals alongside Julius Randle, who has another year on his contract.
“We will evaluate Reggie again tomorrow to make sure,” Miller said of Bullock, who had to sit out Thursday’s 23-point home loss to Phoenix with a sore neck after taking a hit Tuesday in Milwaukee and aggravating the area in which he had cervical disc surgery in the offseason. “He felt better today in practice.”
So that means Kevin Knox still will be coming off the bench. Could the Knicks have gone with Knox or even inserted Frank Ntilikina into the starting lineup, trying to get more out of the young players still on rookie deals?
Miller said he is in contact with the team’s executives and the plans are collaborative.
“We communicate about a lot of things every day,” he said. “I think we’re really on the same page with what we’re trying to do with the group.”
The plan during the summer was to use the veterans to bolster the franchise after a 17-65 record last season. But the record is eerily similar to last season’s, even with $70 million worth of veteran contracts added.
More alarming, Miller and Marcus Morris griped after Thursday night’s loss that the team was a step slow, unable to match the effort of the Suns.
At least to this point, the Knicks could point to the improvement of Barrett.
“For sure, with RJ going down, we know what he brought to the team,” Bullock said. “It’s an opportunity for everybody to be able to get a chance to be able to use some of the minutes RJ was [playing] out there. We’re at a big part of the season right now, second half of the season. We just have to come together and put together some wins and start buying in and doing it together as a team.”