Nerlens Noel’s injury is the only downside to Knicks dominance – fr

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Monday in Memphis could force the Knicks to start Taj Gibson at center and use Norvel Pelle as a replacement.

In the only positive note in Houston on Sunday night, starting center Nerlens Noel crashed to his knees with Christian Wood and suffered what the Knicks said was a sprained ankle. He left in the third quarter and did not come back. He only played 11:20.

The Knicks were fine without him. Gibson played 31 solid defensive minutes and scored six points (3 of 4 shooting) with five rebounds with Tom Thibodeau saying he was “amazing”. Pelle had rare action, playing the final five minutes.

Thibodeau didn’t know Noel’s status for Monday’s game, but the fact that he didn’t come back wasn’t a good sign. Thibodeau has options other than Pelle as a backup. While Toppin has started to emerge the past two weeks as a two-way force, he can move up to center and play alongside Julius Randle.

Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel
AP

The sixth man, Alec Burks, who has not adhered to the COVID-19 protocol, was excluded from Sunday’s competition but has a chance to dress in Memphis. The Knicks have not made Burks available for comment since returning to the squad. He missed eight straight games.

“He’s getting very close,” said Thibodeau.

The coach hasn’t really changed the rotation since Burks left – instead increasing the minutes of rookie Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose. Thibodeau initially said former Knicks lottery picks Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina would take over, but until Sunday neither had played in any of the previous three games.

“We’ve had guys inside and out all season long,” said Thibodeau. “We’ll see where he is in terms of packaging. A guy like Alec, I think he will adapt very quickly. ”

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