The Knicks emerged from the All-Star break as a healthier team, with two key pieces returning to the practice court.
RJ Barrett (sprained ankle) and Derrick Rose (ankle surgery) both practiced fully on Wednesday for the first time since sustaining their respective injuries. Still, it remained to be seen whether either will be ready to play Friday against the Heat, with coach Tom Thibodeau saying the team would base that on how they felt Thursday.
Barrett missed the final four games before the All-Star break after getting injured during garbage time in a Feb. 8 loss to the Nuggets. Thibodeau took criticism for still having Barrett on the court at that point in the game, but Barrett said he had no issue with it.
“I think I was just frustrated just with the injury itself,” Barrett said Wednesday. “You never want to get hurt. It was a sprained ankle. I always want to be out on the court. It doesn’t matter when. So I feel like especially spraining my ankle like that, that could have happened in the first 10 seconds of the game, so it doesn’t matter.”
Barrett said he still feels pain, but wanted to get through it mentally and thought he was “pretty close” to being back.
“It’s gonna be sore,” Barrett said. “But trying to just be mentally tough to get through that. I can move. I can move a little bit, so like I said, being able to go out there and practice and scrimmage and really do that, it was a good sign. I have another one [Thursday], so just gonna continue to see how it feels.”
Rose, meanwhile, last played on Dec. 16. The Knicks could sorely use his veteran presence at point guard to run the offense, especially now that Kemba Walker is done for the season.
“He’s been doing a lot but he has not taken contact before [Wednesday],” Thibodeau said. “So he took contact today, went through all that. So that’s good.”
Thibodeau was placed further into the crosshairs during the All-Star break when SNY reported executive vice president William Wesley, in conversations with owner James Dolan, at least partially blamed Thibodeau for the team’s struggles.
In his first comments since then, the veteran coach insisted he was not worried about it.
“I talk to Wes all the time,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t respond to rumors or any of that stuff. I know the drill here. I’ve been here before so I don’t worry about any of that stuff.”
When the Knicks hired Thibodeau, they preached him and the front office — led by his former agent, team president Leon Rose — being in lockstep.
“I talk to Leon every day, talk to Wes every day,” Thibodeau said. “So that doesn’t change.”