Knicks, Tom Thibodeau asks the team to play harder

The Knicks appear to have avoided an injury with Jalen Brunson, as the All-Star point guard returned to the lineup Saturday after a one-game absence due to a sprained ankle. Brunson showed no ill effects from the injury, scoring 39 points on 14-of-25 shooting, according to Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post.

Despite Brunson’s return and the debuts of newly acquired role players Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks, the Knicks were shorthanded due to injuries and lost to Indiana on Saturday, writes Peter Botte of the New York Post. The team is particularly affected in the frontcourt, where Precious Achiuwa was forced to play 43 minutes against the Pacers. With Mitchell Robinson, Julius Randle, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Jericho Sims all inactive, Taj Gibson logged 19 minutes on the first day of his second 10-day contract with New York.

“I thought in the first game (with the new additions) there were some obviously good things and obviously there was a lot to adapt to. As a team, I think we need to do a lot better,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We are short-staffed. We’re going to have to play a lot harder and a lot tougher.”

Even though their first game with the Knicks didn’t go as planned, both Bogdanovic and Burks expressed excitement at the opportunity to join a playoff team after spending the first half of the season with the league’s worst Pistons. According to Botte, Burks – a former Knick – didn’t want to leave New York in the first place and has repeatedly said he’s “glad to be back.”