Knicks’ OG Anunoby nearing return from injury after clearing major hurdle in practice

New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) during the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks can breathe a sigh of relief. OG Anunoby was a full participant in 5-on-5 scrimmaging during the Knicks’ practice on Thursday.

After missing the last 16 games with elbow inflammation, the reigning NBA steals leader could return for New York as soon as their next matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers tonight. He’s just awaiting an OK from team doctors before taking the floor.

Knicks: OG Anunoby can return for the Knicks during their two-game slate against a depleted 76ers team

The Knicks have a two-game slate with the 76ers between now and Tuesday, giving them a ripe opportunity to reinstate Anunoby into the mix and replicate the impact he had on their winning efforts once he joined the team on Jan. 1.

Anunoby catalyzed a 12-2 stretch in the month of January and posted the highest plus/minus for a player in their first five games with a new franchise. The Knicks looked like real championship contenders with him in the lineup. That was magnified by their deadline acquisitions of Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks from the Detroit Pistons.

Since he went down, New York has gone 8-9. They could desperately use the 15.6 points, 1.8 steals, and 1.1 blocks his absence deprived them of for the last month and a half.

What will Anunoby’s return mean for Josh Hart?

Anunoby’s return will affect Josh Hart’s role in the lineup. The Villanova product has averaged 40.7 minutes in Anunoby’s stead but is now destined for a spot on the reserve unit once more.

When touching on imminent role reduction, Hart said this per Stefan Bondy of the New York Post:

“We’ll see. My job is to come out there with energy and do the little things. And that’s what I’m going to try to do,” Hart told The Post.

The good news is that Hart improved tremendously as a starter. His 13.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 5.8 assists along with 1.7 threes per night gave him his mojo back after putting up nearly half of that production prior.

Since there is no bad news, the other good news is that Hart has momentum and confidence to better assume his Sixth Man role as the Knicks look to round into playoff form. Anunoby’s return will be momentous toward that cause.

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