The Knicks classified Julius Randle as a game-time decision on Saturday, but the star forward suited up and showed no ill effects of the ankle sprain that had sidelined him since March 29. Randle’s availability didn’t come as a surprise to him, since he believed that he was making good progress with the ankle in the days leading up to the playoffs.
“Every day I got like significantly better,” Randle said, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. “So I felt by the time Saturday got here I would be fine.”
Randle didn’t just make a cameo appearance. He started for the Knicks and logged almost 34 minutes, racking up 19 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists in New York’s 101-97 Game 1 win over Cleveland, prompting head coach Tom Thibodeau to express appreciation after the game for the 28-year-old’s effort.
“Dependability is a big part of the league,” Thibodeau said. “And to be able to count on each other is important so we don’t want anyone out there who’s injured. We don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way, but if you can give us something, give us what you have and that’s what I’m proud of Julius for. He gave us what he had.”
Here’s more on the Knicks:
- Acquired from Portland prior to the 2023 trade deadline, six-year veteran Josh Hart got the chance on Saturday to play in his first career playoff game. He looked right at home in the high-pressure environment, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass, as Zach Braziller of The New York Post details. “Unreal, that’s what he does,” teammate Jalen Brunson said. “I said it after the game: It doesn’t matter if it’s pickup, preseason, playoffs, he plays that way every single time. That’s just how he is, that’s how he’s wired. He’s big time.” The Cavaliers were one of the teams said to have interest in Hart in early February.
- Veteran point guard Derrick Rose has only placed once for the Knicks since the calendar flipped to 2023, but Quentin Grimes referred to the former MVP as a “key factor” in the locker room for the team entering the postseason, according to Peter Botte of The New York Post. “He’s been great. I feel like the past week and a half or so, he’s been a little more vocal,” Grimes said on Thursday. “I think he kind of feels the excitement coming back, the playoffs coming around.”
- As good as the Knicks have been this season, they’re still one star player away from being a legitimate championship threat, argues Mike Lupica of The New York Daily News.