Knicks’ Josh Hart says team would be ‘pleasantly surprised’ if OG Anunoby and Julius Randle return

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) high fives guard Josh Hart (3) in front of Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) during the fourth quarter at Barclays Center
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks forward Josh Hart commented on the team’s mindset while OG Anunoby and Julius Randle are still out with their injuries after Sunday’s heartbreaking loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he also didn’t provide optimism about their potential returns:

“I’m looking at it like this is the team we’re going to have. I think that’s how we have to approach it, that those guys aren’t coming back and obviously we’ll be pleasantly surprised if they come back,” said Hart via Newsday’s Steve Popper. “I’m not in those medical conversations or anything like that, so I don’t know sh- from sh-. But we’ve got to approach it every game and the end of this season that those guys aren’t coming back and if they do be pleasantly surprised.”

Josh Hart’s comments on the Knicks’ absent stars are alarming

This is definitely alarming for Knicks fans to hear from a player. It can be interpreted in two different ways: Hart could be trying to motivate the squad they currently have and not dwell on guys that aren’t available, or he could be shedding light on the situation with reality setting in that their returns may not happen before the end of the regular season.

The conversation around the team since the All-Star break has mostly been about what they’ll look like at full strength. However, time is starting to run out, as there are only eight regular season games remaining before the playoffs begin, and they are still without two of their best players.

It is still unknown when, or if, OG Anunoby and Julius Randle will return

Anunoby and Randle still have unclear timelines for when they might make a return. Head coach Tom Thibodeau alluded to uncertainty surrounding Anunoby before Sunday’s game, saying that they are going to “just deal with reality day-to-day,” according to The Athletic’s Fred Katz.

As for Randle, SNY’s Ian Begley reported that the three-time All-Star still hasn’t been cleared for contact on his dislocated right shoulder, as he has essentially been at the same stage of his rehab of doing light contact and shooting for the past few weeks.

The Knicks have managed to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference despite the injuries, as they are currently the fourth seed and only half a game behind the third-seed Cleveland Cavaliers. However, they are a much different team with their star players than without.

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The team has struggled without a healthy roster

The team is 12-13 in games OG Anunoby hasn’t played in this season, compared to 15-2 with him. Without him and Randle on the floor, shots have been tougher to come by for Jalen Brunson, and the team does not have a true secondary creator that initiates offense for the times Brunson sits on the bench.

Since Jan. 28, the Knicks have a 122.1 offensive rating with Brunson on the court, but a daunting 101.8 offensive rating when he is off the court. Sunday night against OKC, New York only had 18 bench points, and in the 13 minutes Jalen Brunson was off the floor they shot just 33% from the field.

If the Knicks expect to go on a deep run through the playoffs, they’ll need to get some of their guys back. Otherwise, it could be a short stay in the dance for them after what looked to be a dream season.

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