Cleanthony Early thanks fans, 'grateful' to avoid serious injury

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- A day after he was shot in the knee during a robbery, Knicks forward Cleanthony Early thanked fans for their support and expressed relief for having avoided serious injury.

"I got shot but ironically I dodge[d] a bullet," Early wrote on Instagram. "It could have been way worse and I'm thankful and grateful that it wasn't."

Everything I Go Through Grows Me & a simple celebration of a friends birthday easily turned into a day that will change my life forever but for the Better. Continue to count your blessings regardless, I know I will, because I got shot but ironically I dodge a bullet. It could of been way worse and I'm thankful and grateful it wasn't. This is a lesson learn for me and to you all as well, be safe out there, theirs people out here that want to hurt you just to hurt you, it's the sad truth about life but don't let them catch you slipping, & don't let them take your Joy! We / I could think about what I could of/should of/ or what you would of done differently to prevent the situation from happening but truth be told is it is what it is, I'm not perfect, but I'm alive,learning & unlearning and God got me so I'm going to be alright! There was No major damage done Thank God, but this is one hell of an experience to recovery from. So with that beginning said Thank you all for your Thoughts and Prayers, I appreciate you all! Shout out to you beautiful souls for caring and sending all the love, it overpowers all hate everyday😁. God works in Mysterious ways but this is a Minor set back for a Major come back! #HungrierAndHumbler #ChangeIsTheOnlyConstant #ChangeForTheBetter #ImGood #GodSpeedRecovery

A photo posted by Cleanthony Early🏀🎓🚀 (@cleanthonyearly11_) on

Several masked robbers boxed in Early's cab with their vehicles as he left a Queens strip club early Wednesday morning and robbed him before shooting him in the right knee, according to The Associated Press.

The bullet went through Early and was not lodged in his knee, according to sources, and there was no major structural damage to his knee. Surgery will not be necessary at this point, but Early is still being monitored for infection and tissue damage in the affected area, sources said.

Several members of the Knicks organization, including most players, visited Early on Wednesday evening.

"He's good, relatively speaking," Carmelo Anthony said. "He's in good spirits. ... For him not to have surgery and have a chance to heal quickly, he was blessed. He was fortunate."

Early left CityScapes in Queens with his girlfriend at about 4:30 a.m. in an Uber cab when his vehicle was surrounded by at least two other cars and as many as six men got out, the two officials said. Early handed over two gold chains before he was shot in the right kneecap, officials told the AP.

Law enforcement officials told WABC-TV in New York that the men even asked for the gold caps from Early's teeth. After the shooting, the men drove off. The Uber driver and Early's girlfriend were uninjured, and the driver was robbed only of his identification. Hours after the incident, Early was comforted by visits from members of the organization, including coach Derek Fisher.

"That definitely put a smile on his face," Anthony said.

Anthony, who is close with Early, added that the incident put a lot of things into perspective" for the 24-year-old forward.

"You definitely can't take nothing for granted, and this is a situation where it makes you re-evaluate a lot of things in life." Anthony said.

Early echoed those thoughts in his Instagram post.

"This is a lesson [learned] for me and for you all as well, be safe out there," Early wrote. "[There are] people out here that want to hurt you just to hurt you."

The theft comes about 10 days after Knicks forward Derrick Williams was robbed of $617,000 in jewelry from his home by two women whom he had taken home from a Manhattan club. Police are still looking for the suspects.

Williams said Tuesday night that there were some falsehoods being circulated about the incident. The case raised questions about whether NBA players should have a curfew similar to those of other professional sports.

Fisher reiterated on Thursday that he hasn't implemented a curfew for the Knicks but that it could be in consideration in the future.

Early was out celebrating a friend's birthday after the Knicks' home win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, according to his Instagram post.

"A simple celebration of a friends birthday easily turned into a day that will change my life forever but for the Better," Early wrote. "There was no major damage done, Thank God, but this is one hell of an experience to recover from."

There is no timetable for Early's return at this point, according to Fisher. The Bronx native was selected by New York in the second round of the 2014 draft as Phil Jackson's first draft pick after his senior season at Wichita State.

A 6-foot-8 forward, he has seen action in 10 of the Knicks' 33 games this season and is averaging 0.7 points per game. He is under contract through the remainder of the season and will be a free agent in the summer of 2016.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report