The Knicks conclude their four-game preseason schedule tomorrow at Madison Square Garden versus the Washington Wizards and then will get set for the regular season start against the Boston Celtics at home next Wednesday. After facing the Celtics, the Knicks will meet up with the Orlando Magic for two games, the first on the road next Friday then back at the Garden on Sunday.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau, now in his second season leading the squad, is shaping the core of the Knicks’ rotation, integrating new additions, point guard Kemba Walker and shooting guard Evan Fournier, into a starting lineup that includes mainstays Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. Forward Obi Toppin, selected by the Knicks eighth overall in the 2020 draft, has carved out a spot among the first five as his solid playoff performance against the Atlanta Hawks last season carried over into a stellar showing at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
One of the more intriguing storylines for the Knicks this upcoming season will be the play and status of fourth-year center Mitchell Robinson. The 2018 second round pick (No. 36) has been an impact player for the Knicks when healthy. The Pensacola, Florida, native made All-Rookie Second Team, posting 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, the latter number ranking him second in the league. For his career, he is averaging 2.1 per game.
Robinson is also adept at guarding on pick and rolls, using his 7-foot frame and length to help and recover. And arguably no interior player is better at rotating out on shooters from the paint and contesting three-point attempts. Conversely, his offense is a work in progress. Robinson’s cumulative field goal percentage in his first three seasons is an impressively efficient 70.5%, but he takes only 5.1 shots per game.
However, injuries have been an impediment to the 23-year-old’s offensive development. Robinson appeared in just 31 of the Knicks’ 71 games last season due to fracturing his right hand on Feb. 12 against the Washington Wizards. He then sustained a fractured right foot March 27 versus the Milwaukee Bucks, which ended his 2020-’21 campaign.
When training camp began last month, the Knicks had no definitive date set for Robinson’s return to game action. “When he’s ready, he’s ready,” said Thibodeau in late September. “I think it’s important for us to have the big picture in mind with him.”
The Knicks will also have a decision to make regarding Robinson’s future with the team. He is playing on a $1.8 million salary this season and can become an unrestricted free-agent next summer.