Knicks getting ‘bodies’ back after COVID outbreak

It’s now down to two Knicks in protocols while the run of COVID-19 positives might be over entering the new year. 

“We’re getting our bodies back,’’ Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said following the Knicks’ 101-87 victory over the Hawks on Saturday. 

Kevin Knox was cleared out of COVID-19 protocols Christmas morning, but he and Immanuel Quickley were held out for conditioning issues. 

However, two players made their official return from COVID-19 — RJ Barrett and rookie Quentin Grimes. Both were cleared for the Thursday’s game with the Wizards but neither played because of conditioning. 

On Saturday, Barrett, who entered the starting lineup with Alec Burks going to the bench, had one coast-to-coast fast-break dunk but didn’t shoot well (4 of 15, nine points, four assists). 

“Anyone that has that type of layoff, there’s going to be some good stretches and going to be some … thought he gave great effort and his rhythm will come,’’ Thibodeau said. 

RJ Barrett (left) and Quentin Grimes (right) both played for the first time since returning from COVID protocol.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post (2)

Grimes, however, had a big shooting day, finishing with 15 points, making 5 of 12 3s in 25 minutes. That made up for his flagrant foul on Bogdan Bogdanovic on a 3-pointer that gave the Hawks a five-point possession. 

The COVID-19 list now only has center Nerlens Noel and Miles McBride on it. The rookie point guard could well be taken out of protocols in time for their next game in Minnesota on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, a shifted policy will go into effect Sunday in which players don’t have to be tested daily if they are vaccinated and boosted as long as there are no symptoms, according to a source. 

While an honor policy will be the rule of the day, expect less COVID-19 positives to occur. The new policy will be reevaluated on Jan. 8. The Knicks had as many as seven players in COVID-19 protocols last weekend. 

The players are under some restrictions in terms of working out during their protocols depending on their symptoms, leading to delaying their return to action once cleared. 

“You just follow the guidelines the league provides,’’ Thibodeau said. “Everyone’s case is a little different. You talk to the player, the medical staff and then you come up [with a plan]. Some guys don’t have symptoms so you could do more. Some guys do, so they do less. You have to see where they are when they first come back. Do they need time? Safety has to come first.’’ 

The Knicks were 20 of 50 from 3-point range (40 percent). … Replacement players Tyler Hall and Matt Mooney got their first action, playing the final 1:56 of garbage time. … In the final minute, Obi Toppin executed another Slam Dunk contest jam — a between-the-legs maneuver on a breakaway fast break with the Knicks up 18 points. Toppin’s breakaway showboat dunks have incited opponents this season. The Hawks face the Knicks on Jan. 15 in Atlanta. 

Obi Toppin pulled off a between-the-legs windmill dunk in the final minute of the Knicks' 101-87 win over the Hawks.
Obi Toppin pulled off a between-the-legs windmill dunk in the final minute of the Knicks’ 101-87 win over the Hawks.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Entering Saturday, the Hawks had nine players in protocols but got one back in Clint Capela, who started at center. But he wasn’t his usual dominant self (2 of 7, nine rebounds). 

Hawks coach Nate McMillian admitted Trae Young (COVID-19) was looking forward to Saturday when the schedule came out with the chance of playing his first game on Christmas. 

“It’s unfortunate,’’ McMillan said. “He was really excited to have that opportunity.’’ 

The Knicks start a four-game road trip Tuesday (Minnesota, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Toronto).