CLEVELAND — Point guard Kemba Walker was back in the starting lineup Monday and Derrick Rose was back on the road with the Knicks — a sign he’s coming along nicely.
Rose was all smiles in a hallway outside the locker room at Rocket Mortgage Center and walking well before the Knicks’ 95-93 loss to the Cavaliers.
Rose will make this three-game road trip to Cleveland, Miami and Milwaukee and a February return sounds like it actually will happen. He underwent ankle surgery on Dec. 24.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t say when asked directly if Rose will be back within four weeks, but sounded extremely upbeat about his rehab.
“I hate to speculate,’’ Thibodeau said. “I know he’s doing everything according to plan and there hasn’t been any setback. The swelling’s all gone and he’s feeling a lot better. That’s the important thing.”
Thibodeau said Rose hasn’t been cleared to run yet.
“He’s shooting stationary, no running or jumping, but he’s doing stuff in the pool,” Thibodeau said.
Rose, who has been ranked eighth among All-Star voting for Eastern Conference guards, hasn’t talked to the media since the recurring ankle soreness finally became too much to bear in Houston on Dec. 16. Rose sat out the second half that night and hasn’t played since.
The Knicks announced on the day of the surgery he’d be out at least two months. So it’s feasible, at the latest, Rose will play on Feb. 25 versus the Heat — the first game out of the All-Star Weekend, which happens to be in Cleveland.
Mitchell Robinson missed Monday’s game after spraining his ankle Sunday in the third quarter of the Knicks’ win over the Clippers.
Nerlens Noel, who returned to action Sunday to score eight points, including a nifty 12-footer, started in his stead and finished with two points and 13 rebounds. Noel played in just his 20th game in a season beset by injuries.
“We’re fortunate we have quality depth at that position with Taj [Gibson] and Jericho [Sims],’’ Thibodeau said.
Walker, who rested versus the Clippers, was back in the starting lineup, which meant Alec Burks (no points, four assists) moved to wing. Hence Cam Reddish became a DNP-CD after making his debut Sunday in which he logged 5:23.
“Right now we have pretty much everyone healthy on the perimeter,” Thibodeau said. “As we wait for Derrick, you can’t have enough wings. It will sort itself out.”