Obi Toppin #1 of the Knicks reacts in the first...

Obi Toppin #1 of the Knicks reacts in the first half against the Nets at Barclays Center on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Credit: Jim McIsaac

As the Knicks have cut back on their rotation, they lost a key piece of that rotation Wednesday when Obi Toppin was lost for what is expected to be an extended absence.

Toppin suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula head during Wednesday’s win over Atlanta. He will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks.

Knicks officials were uncertain exactly how the injury occurred but he did collide with Atlanta’s Aaron Holiday in the second quarter, appearing to bang knees. He almost immediately began limping but remained in the game. He was ruled out for the second half.

While Toppin is not a starter, he is only backup to Julius Randle on the roster right now. Asked after the game how he would handle the role if Toppin was lost for an extended period, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said that the minutes would fall to RJ Barrett. Barrett is already playing a team-high 33.5 minutes per game this season while Toppin was on the floor for 17.1 minutes per game, appearing in all 25 games.

“We’ll figure it out,” Thibodeau said after Wednesday’s game. “I like the idea of RJ being there some. I think he showed us last year how effective he can be at the four, so I think that can be a possibility.”

The Knicks could also utilize Cam Reddish, who was just removed from the rotation Sunday and did not appear in either of the last two games. Reddish is 6-8, taller than Barrett. But he also was pulled after a lackluster performance Saturday in the Knicks' loss to Dallas and league sources have confirmed that the team has begun investigating trade opportunities for Reddish.

“I expect everyone to be professional and to put the team first,” Thibodeau said of Reddish being out of the rotation. “Yeah, that is an expectation. I know it’s not easy. We’re asking everyone to sacrifice. As I mentioned yesterday, for some guys, it’s not starting. Some guys maybe they’re not in the rotation. And that’s not easy. But you have to determine and settle on a rotation, and so it doesn’t mean it’s that way forever. Things can change very quickly in this league and they often do.”

And would a trade alleviate those issues? Or is it a moment like this when a need suddenly arises?

“I mean, these are all the challenges that I think every team has over the course of the season,” Thiboddeau said. “Sometimes it’s resolved.  It might be injury, it could be foul trouble, whatever it might be. But the whole idea is to move the group forward together. So what gives us the best chance to move forward together successfully. So you have to make some tough decisions somewhere along the way. But everyone has to understand that they are important and an important part of the team. I know for example, with Derrick (Rose), if he’s not in there I know he’s helping the team. And that’s an expectation that I have for everyone.”


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