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Knicks done hoping for injured stars to return: 'That's how we have to approach it – like those guys aren't coming back'

Kristian Winfield, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

In the middle of the 2022-23 NBA season, the Nets became a prisoner of their own hope — hope an oft-injured star in Ben Simmons would make a miraculous return to help power a futile Eastern Conference playoff run.

The Nets traded a disgruntled James Harden for Simmons, who hadn’t played the entire first half of the season due to a combination of mental health and lower back issues.

The hope? Simmons would return in time for the end of the season as the missing puzzle piece tying a Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving-led Nets offense together.

In the end, hope was useless.

Simmons never recovered in time to help the Nets, whose only hope in avoiding a first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics hinged on the embattled forward’s triumphant return.

Hope only prolonged the inevitable. The Knicks would rather get out in front of it.

 

The Knicks are walking a comparable path to their cross-bridge rivals of two seasons ago, only instead of hoping their formidable starting front court walks through the Madison Square Garden doors to return from injury ahead of a second consecutive playoff push, New York is operating as if what they have is what they will have.

Three-time NBA All-Star Julius Randle has been sidelined since Jan. 27 with a dislocated right shoulder that hasn’t quite recovered as smoothly as anyone had hoped.

OG Anunoby isn’t quite out of the woods after early February right elbow surgery, and Mitchell Robinson aggravated an injury to his surgically-repaired left ankle two games after a three-and-a-half-month hiatus.

Josh Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein and Miles McBride have been thrust into the starting lineup, and the Knicks have kept their heads above water. New York is still within arm’s reach of the East’s No. 2 seed after Sunday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Knicks are 15-13 since Anunoby and Randle left the rotation after the Jan. 27 victory over the Heat.

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