N.Y.'s Hart: 'Surprised' if Anunoby, Randle return



NEW YORK — After Oklahoma City Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander broke the New York Knicks’ hearts with a jumper with 1.8 seconds remaining to lift the Thunder to a 113-112 victory here at Madison Square Garden Sunday night, forward Josh Hart delivered another blow by indicating it is more likely than not both OG Anunoby and Julius Randle won’t return this season.

“I’m looking at it like this is the team we’re going to have,” Hart said when asked if there was anything to take away from New York’s performance with three starters — Anunoby (elbow), Randle (shoulder) and Mitchell Robinson (ankle) — unavailable. “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.

“I’m not in those medical conversations or anything like that, so I don’t know s— from s—. But we’ve got to approach every game and the end of this season that those guys aren’t coming back, and if they do, be pleasantly surprised.”

Both Anunoby and Randle initially left the lineup after the Knicks beat the Miami Heat on Jan. 27 here at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” Anunoby was dealing with elbow discomfort that eventually required a procedure to be done on his right (shooting) elbow, while Randle separated his shoulder after Heat forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. took a charge against him.

Anunoby eventually returned to the lineup for three games before sitting out the past seven, including Sunday’s loss to Oklahoma City, while Randle — who continues to work out diligently but has yet to progress past doing “controlled contact” workouts — has not come back since then.

Before the game, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about the status of Anunoby and Randle.

First Thibodeau was asked directly if there was any concern Anunoby could be unable to return this season.

“We just deal with reality,” Thibodeau said.

“You deal with it day-to-day. When he’s strong enough, he gets out there.”

Then, after saying both Anunoby and Randle were more or less in the same place in their recovery processes, he addressed Randle’s ongoing rehab situation, which has seemingly plateaued for the past several weeks. It’s an injury Randle didn’t have surgery on and is notoriously tricky to deal with — particularly for a player who plays with as physical of a style as Randle does.

“Just keep doing what he’s doing, day-to-day,” Thibodeau said of Randle’s rehab process. “You never know when it turns. That’s basically the approach we take.

“Rehab is really your game, so put everything you have into that. And eventually you’ll get there; you can’t get discouraged; just keep working at it. The other guys, they have a job to do.”

Sunday night, the Knicks came heartbreakingly close to winning for a second straight game. But while Friday’s loss in San Antonio was regrettable because the Spurs find themselves at the bottom of the NBA standings, this one was for entirely different reasons: namely the self-inflicted wounds New York gave itself down the stretch, including five missed free throws in the closing minutes.

Three of those were by Brunson alone, who went on to then make what looked like it would be a game-winning layup with 4.1 seconds to go — a play that saw Brunson, not for the first time, tumble to the ground in a heap and put his hands out looking for a foul call.

“Write what you see,” Thibodeau said several times in response to multiple queries about Brunson’s final shot, and whether a foul should’ve been called on the play.”

“He said it wasn’t a foul,” Brunson said later, when asked what the referees said about not calling a foul there. “To put it into long story short, that’s what he said.”

The loss kept the Knicks a half-game back of the Cleveland Cavaliers for third in the Eastern Conference standings, and one game ahead of the Orlando Magic in fourth place.

Oklahoma City, meanwhile, clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2020 with Sunday’s victory, and also moved back ahead of the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves for the top spot in the Western Conference standings.

“It feels good,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of the Thunder officially qualifying for the playoffs after he missed the prior two games with a quad issue. “Not really ‘no big hoorah’ for me. This team has big goals, big aspirations, and it’s one of the things that was on our list for sure. And for us to, to do so, it feels good. You don’t feel like there’s need to celebrate it.

“We haven’t really done anything yet. We just got to keep getting better, and see where it takes us.”



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