April 23, 2024

Tom Thibodeau reveals biggest hurdle Julius Randle must clear to make Knicks return

MIAMI — Thibodeau was his most expansive yet on the biggest hurdle Julius Randle needs to clear before playing again, saying the power forward isn’t yet confident enough in his injured shoulder while expressing hope — though not quite optimism — that the All-Star will play soon.

“The thing for him is that he’s got to keep working everyday until he gets to the point where he feels confident that he can take the contact that he’s accustomed to,” Thibodeau said before the Knicks’ 109-99 loss to the Heat. “When you look at his game and the way he plays, you don’t want him to change his style of play. And I think that’s important.

“And so, keep doing what you’re doing. You have to have a belief that it will turn. Which I do. Maybe it’s tomorrow. Maybe it’s the day after. Who knows when it is? But just keep putting what you have into each day. So work out. Do your rehab. Try to strengthen your shoulder as much as you can and go from there.”

In his long recovery, Randle has been stuck on light contact with pads for about one month as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder sustained in January. He’s missed 29 straight games, including Tuesday’s matchup against the Heat, as the Knicks have leaned heavily on Jalen Brunson for offense.

Typically with dislocated shoulders, there’s a high rate of re-injury and pain with contact. Randle opted against surgery so he could attempt to come back this season, though there’s just seven games remaining in the regular season.

Randle reinvented his game this season by pounding the paint and playing more physically, eschewing the high volume of 3-pointers that carried him to last season’s All-Star Game.

He played hurt in last year’s playoffs but was ineffective on his compromised ankle.

Brunson, who was held to 20 points in the Knicks’ loss, was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for March after averaging 28.8 points and carrying the Knicks to a 9-5 record.

“He’s having an MVP-type season,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s at that level right now where you’re not taking things away from him.”

Brunson’s former teammate in Dallas, Luka Doncic, won the award for the Western Conference.

The Knicks players were in awe of Caitlin Clark while watching the Iowa star dispose of LSU in the women’s Elite Eight.

“I’ve seen clips of her, but that was the first time I watched a full game,” Josh Hart said. “She was amazing. The reads that she made — not even the shots — passing in transition, getting easy shots, for her teammates, really making the offense go. So it was really dope to see.”

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