Knicks’ Barrett could play on Christmas Day

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New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett leads with the ball during a game against the Indiana Pacers.

Several New York Knicks players ditched health and safety protocols ahead of the team’s Christmas Day fight against the Atlanta Hawks. On December 22 and 23, RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes all cleared the Covid list.

On Christmas Eve, Immanuel Quickley left the protocols, according to an announcement of the team.

As the Knicks move closer to rostering a roster of available players resembling the one they started the season with, there remains a group of players in the protocols. Plus, those who were just eliminated may or may not be ready for the Hawks game.

However, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has left hopes that Barrett could return.


Barrett gets back to work


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As relayed by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Thibodeau said Barrett was a participant in the team’s final practice session. His comeback was a big development considering he had missed New York’s previous six games. The Knicks coach further indicated that the door is open for the 21-year-old to dress for Christmas.

“He did more today,” he said of Barrett. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and go from there.”

Before entering Protocols, Barrett finally seemed to be emerging from a prolonged slump. He scored 32 points and managed 7 of 8 shots from distance in a Dec. 7 win over the San Antonio Spurs. And he followed that performance with consecutive efforts of 19 points.

Before the Spurs game, Barrett had accumulated just 11.1 points per game on 33.5% of the field and 23.1% on a range of three points in a streak of 14 games. As a result, his scoring average for the season temporarily dropped to a career low.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Stinar, Barrett is currently listed as questionable to play against Atlanta.

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Quickley probably won’t be ready

As Bontemps noted, there’s at least a chance that Toppin – who called his quarantine “the longest 10 days of my life” – and Grimes could also play on Saturday. The former was one of the few bright spots for the Knicks in a disappointing campaign.

In 27 appearances this season, Toppin is averaging 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 52.7 percent from the floor. His net score of 10.8 is the team’s best score by a substantial margin.

However, Quickley is unlikely to join them. The 6-foot-3 goaltender has barely come out of protocols and must return to a place where his conditioning allows him to participate in an NBA game. Quickley has averaged 10.2 points, 2.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 29 games with the Knicks this season.

For his part, Thibodeau is eager to see Quickley and all the others return to the fold.

“I think our bench was one of our strengths,” said Thibodeau. “Hope we can come back soon.”

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