Fourth-year center Mitchell Robinson missed the first day of training camp due to a foot injury.
Robinson is still recovering from the foot fracture that ended his season last year. He underwent surgery to repair the injury on March 29.
There is no specific timetable for Robinson’s return. Last week, Knicks team president Leon Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau praised Robinson for his approach to rehab. They also said they were encouraged by the way he played before suffering the foot injury.
Thibodeau on Tuesday said Robinson has handled his rehab “as well as you can handle it.”
“It’s encouraging because each day he’s doing more and more," Thibodeau said. "And he feels really good, which I think is important. He’s put a lot of time into film study, and he’s done things where he was sitting in a chair and handling the ball, shooting out of a chair, stationary shooting, form shooting, cardio in the pool, cardio on the bike. And as you guys can see, the physical difference, he’s done a lot of strength training.”
With Robinson out, Nerlens Noel has an early edge in the competition for the starting center spot.
Noel filled in for Robinson over the course of last season. He was a driving force behind the Knicks’ defense, which ranked fourth in the NBA in efficiency. Reserve center Taj Gibson also played a pivotal role when Robinson was out.
When both Noel and Robinson were healthy last season, Thibodeau often started Robinson but played Noel regularly.
“I think (rim protection) is critical just because of the way the game is played now, and the way the game is officiated,” Thibodeau said Tuesday. “…Basically all the rules have really benefited the offense in the last five years. And so, body position, technique, everyone working together, reading the ball well, stance, vision on the weak side, moving on the flight of the ball - all those things matter. But then your last line of defense is critical; I think you have to develop that multiple-effort mentality. You’ve got to fly around and understand that we do have elite rim protectors sitting back there.”
When Robinson returns, Thibodeau will have the luxury of two rim protectors in his rotation. If both centers are healthy and productive throughout the 2021-22 season, the Knicks could have an interesting decision to make on Robinson.
Robinson is currently eligible for an extension. The guess here is that the Knicks are more likely to pass on extending Robinson and see how things play out over the course of the year.
They signed Noel to a three-year, $32 million deal in the offseason. Would they spend significant money to bring Robinson back in the summer of 2022? It’s a tough question, but one that doesn’t need to be answered today.
At the moment, the focus is getting Robinson back on the court.