Knicks' OG Anunoby nearing return, listed as probable against Bulls

A day after finding out that Julius Randle will be having season-ending surgery, the Knicks had a positive injury development, with OG Anunoby being upgraded to probable for Friday's game against the Bulls in Chicago, per the latest NBA injury report.

Anunoby, who has been dealing with right elbow tendinopathy after returning from minor elbow surgery, last played on March 16.

He has played just three games since Jan. 27 due to elbow issues.

He first returned on March 12 but reaggravated the elbow ailment during New York’s win in Portland on March 14. Anunoby played the next game against Sacramento, but attempted just eight shots and seemed affected by the injury.

He missed the next nine games due to the elbow ailment.

The Knicks have gone 5-4 in that stretch.

Recently, Anunoby began participating in 5-on-5 scrimmages and taking contact in practice – significant benchmarks for his return to the court.

“OG is doing well,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau before Thursday's game. “He’s getting closer. We’re cautiously optimistic about that one.”

Thibodeau added that Anunoby has been able to condition regularly during his current absence.

“So that’s one positive, probably out of all of (the elbow issues),” Thibodeau said with a drip of sarcasm on Thursday.

New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) during the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks are optimistic that Anunoby can quickly acclimate to his teammates, just as he did after the initial trade from Toronto.

“His game is unique because it’s defense, it’s rebounding, it’s moving without the ball, it’s running the floor. Being versatile on offense,” Thibodeau said. “(So) he can fit in seamlessly.”

Since joining the Knicks earlier this season via trade from the Toronto Raptors, Anunoby has averaged 14.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in 17 games.

While Anunoby's stats don't jump off the page, his impact defensively and his ability to spread the floor on offense has been enormous.

The Knicks won 12 of their first 14 games with Anunoby in the lineup.

In 451 minutes Anunoby shared the court with Jalen Brunson, the Knicks’ net rating was +27.1.

The numbers also bode well for the Knicks’ lineup once Anunoby returns.

In 54 minutes on the court, the five-man lineup of Anunoby, Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein has a net rating of +21.8.

(Thibodeau, obviously, could choose to keep Miles McBride in the starting lineup and bring DiVincenzo or Hart off the bench.)

Once Anunoby returns, the Knicks will be as close to full strength as they're going to get as they look to improve their position in the Eastern Conference with the playoffs nearing. They enter Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls in fifth place in the conference with seven games to play.