With the New York Knicks offseason roster movement all but come to a close, fans are looking ahead to the 2021-2022 campaign and the narratives unfolding.
Among them, none may be more prominent than that of Mitchell Robinson’s future in the Big Apple.
The 23-year old center, one of the most versatile defenders in the entire NBA, hasn’t touched an NBA court since March 27, when he fractured his right foot.
Seven months later, Robinson has yet to be cleared for contact.
But the fourth-year center has fired off a warning of what’s to come when he makes his seemingly inevitable return.
Robinson, in a story post on his Instagram (@mrobinson23_) page, says his 2021-2022 is “gonna be a movie:”
But when his cinematic return to the floor remains undetermined, with no timetable set for the former Knicks starter.
And the most recent comments from the New York head coach don’t necessarily incite optimism for the short term.
Thibodeau: ‘Still No Official Timetable’
Ahead of the New York Knicks’ third preseason game, head coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about Mitchell Robinson.
His response, while not entirely enthusiastic, was still (via @FredKatz) somewhat promising:
But still, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the coach refused to rule him out for Friday’s preseason finale:
Knicks center Mitchell Robinson is getting closer and Thibodeau wouldn’t completely rule him out for the preseason finale Friday against Washington.
New York would be thrilled to have Robinson back no doubt, but don’t expect them to rush him back by any means.
When he was brought back from a hand injury last season, he played in only four games before fracturing his foot.
And with Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson, there’s no need to now rush him back, based on their successes in 2020-2021.
The New York Knicks boasted one of the best defenses in the entire NBA without Mitchell Robinson, but it’s indisputable that their ceiling skyrockets with him healthy and in the middle.
Over 158 career games with the team, he’s got career averages of 8.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.1 steals.
But with unrestricted free agency looming come next summer, he’ll have to return to that same level of play, if not better, if he hopes to secure a future in the Big Apple.
Although he did recognize the big man’s once-promising stance in the team’s rebuild when discussing his future:
It wasn’t too long ago that Mitchell Robinson seemed like the centerpiece of New York’s rebuild. But this roster has grown considerably since, and the big fella has stagnated a bit because of myriad injuries.
As well as Robinson’s freak of nature ability on both ends of the ball, to defend the shot and catch seemingly impossible lob passes:
Few players can match his combination of length, mobility and athleticism, a package potent enough to eventually put him in the Defensive Player of the Year consideration.
But he also can’t ignore the writing on the wall, provided by the team’s overhaul of talent at the center position:
After locking up Nerlens Noel, bringing back Taj Gibson and drafting Jericho Sims, New York could be set at the center spot, especially if it wants to experiment with Randle and Obi Toppin as small-ball 5s.
Ultimately, it likely comes down to what Mitchell Robinson’s next contract looks like, and furthermore, what it looks like in comparison to Nerlens Noel’s latest deal.
So the question becomes what the big man’s value is, not only to the New York Knicks, but the rest of the NBA, too.