RJ Barrett ready to reappear at Christmas against Hawks

GREENBURGH, NY – The New York Knicks are in line to get more reinforcements for their Christmas Day matinee against the Atlanta Hawks after RJ Barrett participated in the team’s brief practice Friday afternoon.

“He did more today,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of Barrett. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”

Barrett hasn’t played a game since he entered NBA health and safety protocols last week. He has missed the last six games as the Knicks are on a brutal streak in which they have gone 3-8 in their last 11 games.

That stretch includes a demoralizing 124-117 home loss to the Washington Wizards on Thursday night despite a 44-point blast from Kemba Walker, who had returned to the starting rotation after nine games because virtually every other shooting guard was out. Thibodeau’s disposition were unavailable due to injury. or COVID-19.

But with Barrett and rookie Quentin Grimes likely to join forward Obi Toppin on Saturday, and Immanuel Quickley likely ready soon, New York hopes reinforcements can help change a team that even pulled out of tournament venues in the grouped ranking of the Eastern Conference.

“This is the reality of our league,” Thibodeau said. “I think being mentally tough when faced with adversity is probably the most important thing in life, so things haven’t gone our way. We’ve had guys out, just like most of the league, and it is. fast that we can adapt. We talked about that today. “

Thibodeau pointed to correctable errors on the defensive side of the floor, where the Knicks have struggled all season. Entering Saturday’s game, the Knicks are 23rd in defensive rankings, an unusual trait for a Thibodeau team.

Toppin, meanwhile, noticed something else as he sat at home watching games while waiting to be removed from the league’s health and safety protocols.

“I was talking to Thibs about how we need more energy,” Toppin said. “It’s like … we just don’t have that spark of energy right now.”

Toppin, in its second season, has taken important steps for New York. He is averaging 8.4 points on 52% shooting this season and has been part of a second productive unit for the Knicks that has been a great catalyst for the team’s success this season, just as he was a year ago.

Now that New York is getting closer and closer to getting its full complement of players back on the court after having various guys on protocols over the past two weeks, Thibodeau said he wants to try to get that second unit back to the way it was. playing before. they all started wasting their time.

“I thought our bank was one of our strengths,” Thibodeau said. “Hopefully we can get back to that soon.”

Walker’s game has also given Thibodeau something to think about. After scoring 29 points, 21 points and 44 points in his last three games, the coach admitted he could return Alec Burks off the bench as the Knicks continue to return to a more normal rotation.

That will be doable, in part, because Derrick Rose will be out for several weeks due to recent ankle surgery.

“I would like to get the second unit back that was playing really well,” Thibodeau said. “It’s going to be different because Derrick isn’t there, but that has been a strength. It was a strength last year, it has been a strength this year, and by adding new guys, hopefully we can put our starters on the track.”

While the Knicks are getting healthier, their opponent on Saturday is dealing with his own COVID-19 crisis. Several Hawks are currently in the protocols, including superstar guard Trae Young, center Clint Capela, guards Kevin Huerter and Lou Williams and forward Danilo Gallinari.