Tom Thibodeau hints that Knicks star may not be cleared in time for playoffs

This isn't what fans wanted to hear.

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

Julius Randle was amid another career season with the New York Knicks, but a dislocated shoulder threw a wrench into things. The injury happened on Jan. 27 against the Heat, and fans are impatiently waiting for the All-Star to return.

If it were up to Randle, he would've been back on the floor weeks ago. Unfortunately, things don't go that smoothly regarding a shoulder injury. He put off surgery but could have a procedure done over the offseason, making it the second consecutive summer Randle has to rehab.

Randle hasn't been cleared for contact yet. Ahead of Monday's game against Detroit, Tom Thibodeau said the forward is "feeling better." While that isn't bad news, it isn't good news. Thibodeau might have even hinted that if Randle isn't able to return and contribute, he may not return at all.

"You just deal with your reality. So when guys do come back, you see where they are,” Thibodeau said when asked about Randle when he comes back. “We’re always going to prioritize the team. So whatever contributions they can make to help the team, that’s where we’ll go.

“And if it doesn’t help the team then we’re not going to do it."

Tom Thibodeau, via New York Post

Julius Randle still waiting to be cleared for contact with less than a month until playoffs

There are less than three weeks left in the regular season. In less than a month, the Knicks will start their postseason journey. Without Randle (and OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson), New York has stayed in playoff range in the conference. However, if the Knicks don't have Randle in the postseason, that'll change everything.

It's already been said a million times, but a healthy New York squad will be tough to beat. Will the Knicks be healthy in time for the playoffs? Robinson has been cleared for contact, but he's waiting to be cleared by medical staff before he can return to the lineup. Once Randle is cleared for contact (if he is), he'll still have to go through practices to see how he feels. The medical staff won't immediately clear him. It's a process.

Randle's tough. Playing through pain isn't anything new for him. Look at last year's playoffs. He ended the regular season with an ankle injury that he re-aggravated in the postseason. It greatly affected how he played.

If he does play again this season, he'll undoubtedly be working through some discomfort. If his play is hurting the team rather than helping the team, don't expect Thibodeau to keep Randle out there.

There's still so much that's unknown. In the meantime, it'd be best to prepare for Randle not to play again this season. That way, if he does, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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