Cleanthony Early returns to Knicks' active roster for 1st time since being shot in knee

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Knicks forward Cleanthony Early returned to an NBA floor Sunday for the first time since he was shot in the knee in late December.

Early was activated prior to the Knicks' game against the Sacramento Kings in part because of New York's injury issues. The 24-year-old played the final 19 seconds of the first half of the Knicks' 88-80 loss to Sacramento.

"It felt real good, especially after the incident," Early said of his return. "Just trying to get back out there and do what I do."

On the early morning of Dec. 30, several masked robbers boxed in Early's cab with their vehicles, robbed him and shot him in the right knee as he left a Queens strip club.

The bullet went through Early and was not lodged in his knee. He did not need surgery.

"When you look back on it, the biggest part of it is just how fortunate he was that something more disastrous didn't happen, especially when you look at what could have happened with his knee," Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis said prior to the game. "It could have caused much more significant damage than it did, so he's very fortunate, and he knows that."

Early, who had a short stint with the Knicks' D League, the Westchester Knicks, last week, said after Sunday's game that he is still working on his conditioning. He credited Knicks coaches and teammates with supporting him during his rehab.

"I'm very fortunate," said Early, who will be a free agent this summer. "You just go through certain experiences, certain adversities, certain trials. Just keep your head up, get smarter, work harder and just learn from the past."

New York was without Carmelo Anthony (migraines) and Lance Thomas (knee) on Sunday. It is unclear whether Early will remain on the roster or continue to rehab with the D-League squad.