Home News Knicks ‘cautiously optimistic’ OG Anunoby (elbow) injury return on the horizon: ‘He’s...

Knicks ‘cautiously optimistic’ OG Anunoby (elbow) injury return on the horizon: ‘He’s getting closer’

OG Anunoby’s return to the Knicks is on the horizon.

Anunoby, who aggravated his surgically repaired right elbow during the Knicks’ March 14-21 West Coast road trip, has progressed to participating in five-on-five drills and taking contact in team practice.

“OG’s doing well,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said ahead of tipoff against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday. “He’s getting closer. So we’re optimistic — cautiously optimistic — with that one.”

Thibodeau said the Knicks don’t anticipate any unforeseen hurdles in reincorporating Anunoby back into the lineup.

“The one thing is when he came back the first time, we already got a look at what it will look like,” Thibodeau said. “His game is unique because it’s defense, it’s rebounding, it’s moving without the ball, it’s running the floor, being versatile on offense — but he can fit in seamlessly.

“The one thing about it being an elbow injury is he can do the conditioning part.  So that’s the one positive, probably, out of all of that.”

Anunoby first left the Knicks rotation after discovering inflammation in his elbow following New York’s Jan. 27 victory over the Miami Heat.

The Knicks later discovered a loose bone fragment as the cause of Anunoby’s elbow inflammation, and the star forward underwent a procedure to remove the loose body in early February.

He missed just short of a month-and-a-half of action before returning to the floor.

The time away proved insufficient. Anunoby aggravated the elbow injury twice in his first two games back after surgery before leaving the team following a March 16 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

He has not played since — but a return is near.

How long remains to be seen.

Josh Hart, who is starting in Anunoby’s absence, pointed out there hasn’t been much practice time — and the shorthanded Knicks don’t have many available bodies to get their starting forward up to speed.

“We’ve practiced some. Can’t practice too much, don’t have that many bodies,” Hart said pregame on Thursday. “But hopefully he gets out there soon and helps us for this last stretch.”

Starting center Isaiah Hartenstein had no information on Anunoby’s status whatsoever.

“Whatever information y’all get is the same [as what I know],” he said. “They don’t tell us anything. I know [OG’s] been doing good, but whenever he comes back, y’all will probably tweet it out before I even know.”

Anunoby’s status is more critical now than ever before with Julius Randle now out for the season after undergoing surgery to repair his dislocated right shoulder. His situation, however, is fragile.

Rushing him back from injury only puts him at greater risk, but keeping him out of the rotation with just seven games left on the schedule does not help the Knicks’ chances at retaining home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Playing five-on-five, however, tends to be the final benchmark an injured player must reach before he can be cleared to return to game action.

Given he is at this stage, Anunoby’s return could be in play sometime during the Knicks’ upcoming weeklong four-game road trip with pit stops twice in Chicago and once each in Milwaukee and Boston.

The Knicks are 9-17 in games Anunoby has missed since he left the rotation in late January but boast a 15-2 record in games he’s played since his Dec. 31 arrival in New York as part of the Immanuel Quickley-RJ Barrett deal with the Toronto Raptors.

Anunoby is averaging 14.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks through the 17 games he’s played since joining the Knicks.


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