Injury Latest: Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson shows no rust in big return from injury….

New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson is finally back from an ankle injury that cost him more than three months. While there wasn’t much time to digest the news that Robinson would return, he looked pretty good—and not at all rusty—in his first game back.

Robinson and the Knicks steamrolled another sub-par opponent on Tuesday night, defeating the Raptors 145-101. Granted, Robinson came off the bench as Isaiah Hartenstein’s understudy, but his impact was definitely felt. His return also probably served as motivation for his teammates to continue their winning ways.

The seven-footer entered the game with 5:08 remaining in the first quarter, long before the game was decided. Robinson scored eight points, collected two rebounds, and blocked two shots in a little over 12 minutes of action.

On the whole, Robinson was a +14, and he provided some promising playing time in relatively competitive minutes, at least early on in the first quarter.

Robinson looked spry and well-conditioned in his first game back since injuring his ankle on December 8. He did much of what we’ve come to expect, rebounding, intimidating opposing players at the rim and blocking shots.

He also demonstrated that he is still a major lob threat, drawing a foul on one (admittedly) not great pass that was thrown too high simply because his length makes him a threat to dunk from almost anywhere.

But Robinson also showed some other things. Specifically, he creatively (and quickly) attacked the basked off the dribble on one of his first offensive touches, converting a fairly difficult layup. Neither attacking off the dribble nor converting layups at difficult angles are what we’ve come to expect from Robinson, and that’s not a bad thing.

Robinson may have shown even more had the game been closer. However, coach Tom Thibodeau smartly opted to keep Robinson on the bench as New York accumulated a 30-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

A look back at Mitchell Robinson before his injury

Prior to his injury this 2023-24 season, Mitchell Robinson was having a career year. He was averaging 6.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 21 total games. Further, he was—and still is—averaging more offensive rebounds per game (5.3) than anyone else in the NBA.

The Knicks applied for a disabled player exemption after Robinson underwent surgery but were denied. The fact that New York was denied was the first hint that Robinson might return this season.

So, with Robinson back, the Knicks are one step closer to being complete. While coach Tom Thibodeau will probably take it easy on Robinson from a workload standpoint, at least for the next few weeks, adding another great rebounder and shot-blocker is always welcomed, especially as New York prepares for the playoffs.

Obviously, Robinson must enter Friday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs feeling healthy and as close to normal as can be expected. Assuming that’s the case, Robinson will probably play a similar role.

Looking farther done the road, Robinson should be vital to the team if they achieve playoff success. New York is still missing two starters in OG Anunoby and Julius Randle. And while getting both back would be ideal, there’s limited time for Anunoby and/or Randle to ramp back up. Anunoby proved he doesn’t need much time to get acclimated in his three games earlier this month, but Randle’s dislocated shoulder could be an entirely different story.

Regardless who else returns to the Knicks’ lineup, getting their longest-tenured player back is certainly a boost. And if Robinson can get back to what he was doing earlier this season, opposing teams would at least be wise to avoid attacking the rim.

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