The Knicks feel fortunate to have made it 30 games into the NBA season before having one postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.
Saturday’s scheduled home game against San Antonio became the Knicks’ first contest to be pushed back when four Spurs players tested positive earlier this week.
“Fortunately, we’ve just been lucky,” Knicks guard RJ Barrett said on a Zoom call Friday after practice. “We’ve been doing the right things. We have a great staff, great medical team. Obviously, just praying and hoping that we continue to stay like this.
“In terms of the game [Saturday], it gives us an extra day of prep for Minnesota.”
Indeed, the Knicks (14-16) will have had three days off — since Wednesday’s clunker in Orlando halted their three-game winning streak — before facing the NBA-worst Timberwolves on Sunday night at the Garden.
Sunday’s game will be the first of four straight at home for the Knicks. Barrett added it’s “very exciting” that a limited amount of fans will be returning to the Garden — for the first time since the pandemic shutdown more than 11 months ago — beginning Tuesday night against the Warriors.
“I think this is definitely a part of the schedule we’ve been looking forward to,” Julius Randle said. “We’ve been lucky to not have any postponements. … At least it’s a home game, so it’s not like we have to go out and travel. We’ve been one of the lucky teams, for sure.”
Tom Thibodeau credited the Knicks’ medical staff and the players adhering to the protocols for mostly avoiding any slipups in relation to the league’s health and safety standards. Only guard Frank Ntilikina has missed any time due to contact-tracing issues, and he has not tested positive for the virus.
“You’re always concerned because of the way it spreads. It spreads quickly, so the safety part of it is critical,” Thibodeau said Friday. “As I’ve mentioned many times, Dr. [Lisa] Callahan and [head trainer] Roger Hinds and [the medical staff] have done a phenomenal job with reminding us of all the protocols that are necessary for us to play.
“But you still know it just takes one. We have been fortunate. You look at the league and the amount of games that have been missed, to be able to play as many as we’ve played. It’s good planning on the league’s part, putting all the protocols in place. So we’ve been fortunate and hopefully we’ll continue to be fortunate.”
Largely avoiding COVID-19 issues has been among the keys for the Knicks exceeding outside expectations thus far. They entered Friday’s action in seventh position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Randle is a strong candidate to be named as a reserve for the All-Star Game. He’s averaging career bests in points (23.2), rebounds (10.9), assists (5.5) and minutes played (36.7).
“I don’t know whose expectations we’ve exceeded, I guess I’ll leave that up to you guys,” Randle joked with reporters. “We feel like we can get a lot better as a team on both sides of the ball. I feel like I can be a lot better as an individual. So we just have to keep improving, coming in every day with the right mindset, getting better, taking our craft seriously and go from there.”