Though the Knicks announced forward Obi Toppin will be reevaluated in 7-10 days, coach Tom Thibodeau sounded as if their rookie lottery pick could be out as many as two weeks with a calf strain — if not longer.
Toppin re-aggravated a previously undisclosed calf injury in the season opener versus the Pacers, Thibodeau said. The rehab process has Toppin unable to put any pressure on his leg for a week, affecting his conditioning. Toppin won’t practice again in 2020.
“When you miss that type of time, with that type of injury, there’s going to be a period of time for him to get back to speed in terms of playing,’’ Thibodeau said. “And so obviously with a calf, you can’t run or jump, so the conditioning component will factor into that.’’
It should be noted the last time a Knicks rookie strained a calf, it wasn’t good. Allonzo Trier, in 2018-19, sat out the final 3 ½ weeks of his rookie season with a calf strain.
Toppin missed his second straight game Sunday against the Bucks. Between now and Jan. 11, the Knicks play eight more games. That could mean Toppin misses a total of 10 games.
Austin Rivers, the Knicks free-agent signee, is expected to undergo his first contact practice session Monday. He missed all four preseason games with a groin pull and almost all of training camp. Thibodeau plans to stick him back in the rotation, according to sources, when healthy.
Point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who looked uninspiring in his 17-minute season debut Saturday, missed Sunday’s game with a bruised quad. Smith suffered a multitude of nagging injuries last season, including a strained oblique, normally a baseball injury. Smith was 1 of 5 from the field Saturday.
That could give Thibodeau further impetus to try former Auburn star Jared Harper as backup point guard. He’s on a two-way contract but is probably their best 3-point shooter at that position. The second-year pint-sized guard appeared in the preseason finale and sank 2 of 4 3-pointers.
With rookie Immanuel Quickley (hip) out, as well as Rivers, Thibodeau hasn’t settled on a backup point guard. In the opener, he didn’t use Frank Ntilikina until the fourth quarter and didn’t play Smith at all. Saturday, he used Smith first, then only had Ntilikina mop up the final two minutes. In both games, he’s gone without a true point guard, using wing Alec Burks.
“I think going into camp we said we needed everyone,’’ Thibobeau said. “And then when you start playing games you have to settle on a rotation. That doesn’t mean the guys who aren’t in the rotation at that particular point won’t get into the rotation. Over the course of the season everyone is going to have an opportunity to play.’’
Thibodeau was impressed that five of his players returned to the court late Saturday after the Sixers’ loss to hoist up shots. That included point guards, Elfrid Payton and Ntilikina.
“We got a really good group of players,” Thibodeau said. “We have younger players who want to get better and they’re putting a lot of time in. Guys are coming back to work on their game and studying film. I told them that today. We’re not quite there yet but we will be at some point. As long as we’re putting the proper amount of work in every day the improvement will come.”
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