Knicks 'optimistic' about Julius Randle's rehab progression from shoulder injury

When Julius Randle went down grabbing his shoulder against the Miami Heat on Jan. 27, the Knicks feared the worst might’ve happened to their All-Star forward.

Those fears were alleviated to a degree when the severity of his injury, a dislocated right shoulder, wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, which resulted in New York announcing that Randle would be re-evaluated in two-to-three weeks.

That news and timeline came out about two weeks ago and, according to SNY’s Ian Begley, the Knicks are "optimistic" and "excited" with Randle’s rehab progression since then.

"I’ve heard during this period that there’s been some positive progression here during the rehab and I think that’s left people with even more reason to be optimistic that Randle will be back at some point this season," Begley said on Thursday’s episode of The Putback with Ian Begley. "I don’t know if they’re out of the woods yet, but certainly the progress that he has made over the last couple of weeks during this rehab stretch has left people excited about the possibility of him coming back."

Per Begley, the Knicks and Randle are taking this timeframe to see "where he can go and what he can do after two-to-three weeks of rehab." After that, both parties will reconvene and make a decision on whether Randle will come back during the season, how much he can handle if he does come back, or if he needs surgery and will be out for the year.

However, with the way Randle has progressed in his rehab thus far the latter may be unlikely, although nothing is certain yet.

Range of motion and stability are two elements that will probably factor into the final decision.

Dr. Neil Roth, a veteran orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulder and knee care, sees a pathway for Randle to get back on the court during the regular season.

"If he is stable in his range and doesn’t have instability symptoms, he can resume normal activities," said Roth, who is the founder and director of the New York Sports Medicine institute.

Roth, who hasn’t treated Randle directly, notes that a basketball player dealing with a shoulder dislocation can be particularly vulnerable while rebounding.

That’s something worth keeping in mind as the Knicks and Randle move forward. Randle has been a key to New York’s successful rebounding this season.

"The fact that it’s on his non-shooting arm is helpful," Roth says. "He will likely feel some weakness at times but if he rehabs he can compensate with his dynamic stabilizers (muscles/rotator cuff) for the lack of his static stabilizers (ligaments and capsule)."

Randle certainly wants to be back on the court.

"I feel sorry for the PTs, you know how hard Julius works," said head coach Tom Thibodeau in a pregame news conference two weeks ago.

Thibodeau noted then that Randle would do everything he could to play again during the season. More recently, on Tuesday Thibodeau said Randle is "meeting all the milestones" and "doing very well overall."

"We're already processing what the next things are," Thibodeau said. "...And the thing that’s unfortunate -- he was playing at such a high level when he took on the injury."

If Randle returns to the court this season and has surgery in the offseason, he could be back to work in late fall, Roth says.

The Knicks, obviously, would benefit greatly if Randle returns during the season.

Named an All-Star for the second consecutive season and third time in his career, all with New York, the 29-year-old Randle averaged 24 points, 9.2 rebounds and five assists in 46 games before getting hurt.