Jalen Brunson’s injury is now officially a concern.
The Knicks point guard was ruled out of Saturday’s matinee against the Clippers because of a “sore foot,” the same ailment that kept him out of the second half in Thursday’s loss to the Kings.
Brunson had missed two games earlier this week with soreness in his left foot, and it wasn’t a good sign that his return in Sacramento lasted just 19 minutes. The point guard moved and played well in a 122-117 loss to King as he trailed by 19 points.
( Even without injured star Jalen Brunson, the Knicks have ‘more than enough to win,’ says coach Tom Thibodeau )
But he was also in clear discomfort and was seen limping into the locker room with coach Anthony Goenaga. The Knicks are in the midst of a trip to the Western Conference with back-to-back games this weekend against the Clippers and Lakers.
“When you’re dealing with a bruised foot like that, you’ll feel great when you have a little bit of free time, which Brunson has had,” TNT analyst Stan Van Gundy, a longtime trainer close to Thibodeau, said during the broadcast. . “But then when you’re back, hitting him, he’s right back. And that could end up being a long-term thing. And the Knicks certainly want to avoid that. But at the same time, they’re still in a fight for playoff position.”
Thibodeau, whose No. 5 Knicks were just one game ahead of the No. 6 Nets in the East before Friday night’s results, provided another update to reporters after the Sacramento game.
Thibodeau has only offered vague descriptions of the injury.
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“It just made it worse, but I haven’t talked to the doctors yet,” the Knicks coach offered. “Only pain. We have to let the doctors do their job.”
Brunson has missed six games this season. Before the sore foot, he dealt with minor injuries while absorbing the heaviest workload, by far, of his NBA career. Two days before Brunson’s foot pain was first announced, he sprained his ankle against the Miami Heat. He, too, missed three games in December with a sore hip. There may be a physical tax on being the lead guard, a role Brunson didn’t have in Dallas alongside Luka Doncic, and now, with a month left in the season, would be a bad time for his body to pay up.
But it’s better than during the playoffs.
Thibodeau, meanwhile, has praised New York’s depth and his team rallied in Sacramento from a 16-point halftime deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter. But Brunson’s replacement at point guard, Immanuel Quickley, was chilled (he shot 1-for-11) and the Knicks (39-29) ran out of gas for the second straight loss.
Their worst defensive possession occurred with about five minutes to go when Julius Randle and RJ Barrett stood looking as if they had been tagged when Sacramento’s Kevin Huerter came into the lane and made his own miss.
Thibodeau responded by benching Barrett, which was quickly followed by Sacramento’s 9-0 run.
( Mike Lupica: In Jalen Brunson, the Knicks finally got their franchise-altering free agent )
Against the Brunson-less Clippers on Saturday afternoon, the Knicks are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak since January.