RJ Barrett closing in on return to Knicks’ lineup since finger injury


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The Knicks are on the verge of finally being whole again.

RJ Barrett went through another practice Tuesday and then was upgraded to questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Pacers at the Garden.

The Knicks’ wing has been out since lacerating his right index finger on Dec. 27, which required six stitches after his finger popped out of place. But coach Tom Thibodeau said after Tuesday’s practice that Barrett has now had the stitches removed, putting him in play to make his return to the lineup on Wednesday night.

“Just being at full strength and having a guy like him, he’s such an important part of the team,” Thibodeau said.

Getting Barrett back would make the Knicks the healthiest they have been in over a month — since Dec. 7, the night Obi Toppin sustained a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula. Since then, the Knicks have had to withstand injuries to Jalen Brunson (hip, three games), Barrett (finger, six games) and Quentin Grimes (ankle, one game) for different stretches, though they are 10-6 during that time.

RJ Barrett
Noah K. Murray

Barrett’s injury came two games after he dropped a season-high 44 points against the Bulls, with his shooting having turned around after a slow start. He was also taking on more minutes playing with the second unit, which appeared to be a good fit.

“RJ, the thing is we had to change the way we were playing a little bit just because of what he was providing, not only with the starters but what he provided with the second unit,” Thibodeau said. “So we had to fill that void more of what he was doing with the second unit. Hopefully we can get that back.”

Toppin could be in line for more minutes Wednesday night in his second game back from injury, after Thibodeau only used him as Julius Randle’s backup when Giannis Antetokounmpo was also on the bench Monday night.

“Some good,” Thibodeau said of Toppin’s first game back. “Thought the conditioning was pretty good. Just keep building off of that.”

Because of injuries to Barrett and Brunson, Immanuel Quickley has started the last seven games, a stretch in which he averaged 20.3 points, 5.9 assists and 5.3 rebounds.

“He’s played great basketball throughout this stretch,” Thibodeau said. “I like him with both units. I think he complements Jalen and Julius and RJ really well.But also, I like the way that group functioned with our second unit when we had RJ in there with Deuce [Miles McBride] and Quick, because of the versatility of all those three guys together. It gives you a lot off the dribble. They’ve played really at a high level.”

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