The Knicks are preparing to take on the Washington Wizards on Thursday night, but they will once again be hampered by a raging Covid variant that has knocked out seven players as of 15 days ago. Luckily for the Knicks, both Obi Toppin and RJ Barrett are eligible to return after clearing the 10-day quarantine.
Big man Nerlens Noel was placed on the Covid list on Wednesday, the team announced. Pistons’ rookie Cade Cunningham also tested positive for the virus, so it’s possible Evan Fournier may have been exposed since he was tasked with man-marking the youngster throughout the game. Losing Noel will have implications, forcing Mitchell Robinson back into a starting role, despite playing more minutes than Noel regardless.
Robinson has finally found his form, showcasing great energy levels and positioning on both rebounds and dunk opportunities.
The Knicks can bring back two impact players if their symptoms subside:
The Knicks are only allowed to return Barrett and Toppin if they have cleared symptoms. Unfortunately, it seems as if Toppin is still experiencing symptoms since he was eligible to play on Tuesday night against the Piston but was inactive. Given Detroit has won just five games this year and is currently the worst team in basketball, it’s possible Tom Thibodeau instructed Toppin to rest up and enjoy a few extra days of rest before they’ll need him against Washington and Christmas Day Vs Atlanta.
If Toppin is unable to go on Thursday, Barrett is also allowed to make a return if he’s not experiencing any lasting symptoms. Barrett was just hitting his form before being placed on the Covid list, similar to Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride, and Toppin. All four had been posting double-digit points and energetic play before coming down with the virus.
Washington currently projects to be without Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rui Hachimura. They will have mostly a healthy team but have dropped four of their last fives games, finally snapping the losing streak against the Utah Jazz on Saturday. All-Star guard Bradley Beal posted a season-high 37 points in the win, a player, the Knicks, were once connected to as a trade target to pair with Julius Randle. At this point, they might be regretting their lack of aggression to pair Randle with a bonafide star.