new york knicks
Injured Knick’s return timetable unknown
Center’s injury shatters big Knicks strength
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While waiting for a timeframe for starting center Mitchell Robinson’s return from a fractured right hand, the Knicks already are considering how to replace their starting center for however long he is sidelined.
Tom Thibodeau said following Friday’s 110-91 win in Washington – in which Robinson was injured in the second quarter — that he’s comfortable moving forward with veteran backups Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson in the middle. He’s even contemplating using power forward Julius Randle at center at times in a smaller lineup.
“We’ll have some flexibility,” Thibodeau said after Friday’s game. “We can play smaller. I like what Taj gives us. Obviously, the great value and the things that Mitch brought to the team was the defensive component and I feel that Nerlens does many of those things extremely well. And of course Taj, that’s been his strength throughout his career. So I don’t want to lose that piece of it.”
Playing Randle in the middle also could create more playing time for rookie Obi Toppin, who is averaging just 11.9 minutes per game over 17 appearances. He scored eight points in 16 minutes in Friday’s win, his most in both categories in 13 games since Jan. 17.
“I like the way Obi’s coming on. He’s giving us good minutes. So we have that option,” Thibodeau said. “We can downsize and can play Kevin [Knox] at the 4, and play Julius at the 5. There’s a number of things we can do. I like the versatility of our team.
“But anytime we lose a player of Mitch’s caliber, we have to make sure we’re playing hard. You don’t replace a guy like that individually. We have to do it collectively and everybody has to step up.”
Thibodeau didn’t want to speculate on how much time Robinson will miss until the third-year center was reevaluated by the team’s medical staff ahead of Saturday’s game against Houston at the Garden.
Robinson had recorded 10 points and 14 rebounds – his first double-double in the first half of a game in his career – before suffering the injury while attempting to block a shot by Washington’s Rui Hachimura late in the second quarter.
Randle, who acknowledged that that his elbow collided with Robinson’s hand on the block attempt, said his teammate was “in great spirits” after the game.
“Extremely positive. He’s obviously bummed that he can’t be there with us on a night to night basis, but like I said, he’s in great spirits,” Randle said. “He’s a great teammate. And he’s gonna be there with us every step of the way still.”
The 6-9 Randle added that he’s fine with manning the pivot, if Thibodeau decides to go in that direction with the lineup.
“Extremely. I’ve played it in the past. I know how to adjust and what I need to do,” Randle said. “I’m extremely comfortable with it if that’s what Coach asks me to do.”
The 22-year-old Robinson has started each of the Knicks’ first 27 games, and hadn’t fouled out of any of them. The 7-footer is averaging 8.4 points, a career-best 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks over 28.8 minutes per game. He set an NBA record with a .742 field-goal percentage last season, and he entered Saturday ranked second in that category this year at 66.0 percent, a smidge behind former Nets center Jarrett Allen (66.1%), who was traded last month to Cleveland.
“It always hurts when you lose a big like Mitch, man,” Derrick Rose said. “He alters shots, just his presence is huge on this team. That comes from someone that had to play against him a couple of games earlier this year. We want him back as quick as possible.”
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