RJ Barrett #9 of the Knicks takes a shot against LeBron...

RJ Barrett #9 of the Knicks takes a shot against LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first quarter at Crypto.com Arena on February 05, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Getty Images/Ronald Martinez

Tom Thibodeau went through what has become a familiar routine of late, listing RJ Barrett and Nerlens Noel as the players sidelined with injuries as the Knicks readied for the final game before the All-Star break.

But while he was optimistic that Barrett will be back when the team returns from the break, his sprained left ankle already close to ready, he didn’t have as much hope for Noel. The Knicks center has been limited to just 25 games this season as what the team has called a sore left knee has plagued him since preseason.

Noel signed a three-year contract with the Knicks in the offseason after a productive first season with the team. But that deal has gotten off to a rocky start with his absence.

Asked if the injury could be something that requires surgery at some point, Thibodeau said, "Yeah, it’s ongoing, so they’re checking that. Hopefully it responds better as we go."

As far Barrett, who rarely has missed time for injuries in his career (sidelined earlier this season by a stomach virus and then a bout of COVID) Thibodeau was optimistic. "He’s pretty close," he said. "We just thought it was better to rest going into the break."

McBride on the side

Rookie Miles McBride has struggled to get on the court, appearing in just 21 games this season with one clear highlight in Houston, when he got a start with the roster ravaged by injury and illness. He produced 15 points, nine assists and four steals, but was sidelined by COVID before the next game.

He has headed to Westchester to play with the G League affiliate at times this season, but it usually is not a night when the Knicks are playing. But he was assigned to Westchester Wednesday, even though the Knicks were playing.

"It’s something just to monitor his development and give him a chance to get some playing time," Thibodeau said. "He’s been great in practice, so we think it’s been very productive for him. That’s basically a game by game thing. If there’ an opportunity that we think is beneficial to him then we’re going to do that."

Point taken

McBride’s chances have been limited as Alec Burks has gotten much of the time at point guard with Kemba Walker getting the starts and Immanuel Quickley taking some minutes. But Burks has been a Thibodeau favorite and that hasn’t changed even as he has struggled with his shot this eeason.

"You like his size, you like the shotmaking," Thibodeau said. "If you look at the way he shot the ball in the fourth quarter over the entire season, it’s very good. So he gives you that but the thing that’s taken away from is the second unit with when we had Derrick [Rose], Alec and Quick, and Obi [Toppin]. Those guys played very effectively together.

"So you’ve lost that element. And that’s the beauty of Alec’s games is that he can start, he can come off the bench, he can play multiple positions, you can plug him in, he can play small forward, he can play off guard, he can play the point, and that’s been his strength his entire career"