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DALLAS — Just as he was rolling, Alec Burks is now sidelined.
The Knicks’ hot-shooting swingman Burks has been placed in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the team announced, and he missed Friday’s contest in Dallas.
But Burks could miss a lot more. If Burks was sidelined because he tested positive for COVID-19, and it’s not just an inconclusive test, he would miss at least 10 days of action while he quarantines.
Derrick Rose was away from the Knicks for more than three weeks after testing positive and being symptomatic last month. Because of HIPAA laws, the Knicks won’t say specifically if Burks tested positive or had an inconclusive test.
Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina was in the health and safety protocols over a contract-tracing incident in February in Miami after coming in contact with a person who had tested positive for COVID-19. Ntilikina was away from the Knicks for 10 days, quarantining in Miami.
Ntilikina, who is regarded as a better off guard than point guard, will probably pick up the slack should Burks have an extended absence. The Frenchman has been lauded for his good attitude despite being out of the rotation most of the season.
There also was a chance Nerlens Noel would miss his second straight game on Friday with a sprained ankle. That meant Taj Gibson, who signed this season to be the third-string center, would have been forced into his second straight start.
Before the Burks announcement, Gibson, when asked about avenging the loss to the Mavericks earlier this month, said: “It’s a whole new game with a different lineups. We don’t know who we’re going to have. We don’t know who they’re going to have. It’s being prepared.”
Burks, who has become a huge contributor off the bench, scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter in New Orleans on Wednesday to key the Knicks’ fourth straight victory. He has played his way into being in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year, but now could miss several games pending further testing.
The Knicks have an open roster spot after they dispatched Austin Rivers and Ignas Brazdeikis at the trade deadline. Rivers was cut by the Thunder, but is planning to sign this week with the Nuggets, according to a report. Brazdeikis was cut by the 76ers.
They could use either player right now — especially Rivers, who had a falling-out with coach Tom Thibodeau.
Another Knicks player who can leap into the rotation at small forward is Kevin Knox, also out of the rotation since late January. Knox has played mostly power forward when he has gotten into games.
The Knicks stormed into Dallas on a four-game winning streak and a 29-27 record. They’ve been able to do it without using either of their recent lottery picks, Ntilikina (2017) and Knox (2018), in a genuine role.
They’ve done it with defense and timely 3-point shooting. Gibson, who is an all-time Thibodeau favorite having played under him with the Bulls and Timberwolves, explained the defensive culture.
“I think it’s just a testament to guys really understanding the situation, understanding the need to get better on a day-to-day basis,’’ Gibson said. “Not wasting your time. Everybody understands that every time we step on the court everybody is focusing, watching film. Because sometimes guys don’t want to be that guy that really gets chewed out in a film session. Thibs is always making people have accountability for their actions and this team has really grown as far as taking accountability of guarding the next man, of guarding the next great scorer in this league.’’
The Knicks’ winning streak came after they lost five of six games and the wheels looked like they might have been falling off. Instead the Knicks reeled off wins over the Grizzlies, Raptors, Lakers and Pelicans.
“In the NBA, you always get a little panic,’’ Gibson said. “You have to work your way out of the situations. When you think somebody is going to come save you, no one is going to save you. Every team is going to try to capitalize on you in your down state. It’s about coming together as a group, believing in each other and muster up enough fight and toughness to pull out a tough win, even if it’s on the road or at home.’’