Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks may be at full strength after all for their first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Ian Begley of SNY reports star forward Julius Randle will play in Game 1 barring a setback during pregame warmups. Randle has not played since spraining his ankle in the Knicks’ 101-92 win over the Heat on March 29. Equally surprising is that as of a few days ago, he still wasn’t cleared for contact.

Randle turned in a great bounceback season for the Knicks in 2022-23, averaging a career-best 25.1 points per game. Randle also averaged ten rebounds and shot over 34% from three. He thrived playing alongside new star point guard Jalen Brunson and re-established himself as a positive voice in the locker room.

Julius Randle suiting up for Game 1 and playing well would be the absolute best-case scenario for the Knicks. Cleveland has two strong bigs in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. Nothing against Obi Toppin, but it’s hard to believe he could keep up with either in the paint.

Randle, on the other hand, can be a bully inside. He averaged 9.3 points in the paint this year. He also played well against the Cavs this season, averaging 23 points in three games.

This is the Julius Randle the Knicks need in the playoffs. The one who revived both the Knicks and his own career two years ago en route to Most Improved Player. That New York squad proved too young and unprepared for the playoffs and Randle himself vanished.

Not this time. The Knicks need his dominance on both sides of the court. They’ll need his swagger, his confidence, his determination to not just win, but win with the New York Knicks.

Thus, the stage is set. Julius Randle returns from an injury just in time for the playoffs and the Knicks get past the first round into the East Semis.

Now, we just have to hope he’s actually healthy enough to get through warmups.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.