ATLANTA – The Knicks tread water with Mitchell Robinson sidelined for eight games in November, but now they will be without their starting center and defensive anchor for an even longer period of time.
Robinson underwent surgery Thursday at the Hospital for Special Surgery after tests revealed he suffered a fractured right thumb in Wednesday’s home loss to the Wizards. The 7-foot-7 center will be reevaluated in three weeks, the team said, but likely will be out much longer, starting with Friday’s road game against the Hawks.
The Knicks went 4-4 in the eight games Robinson missed with a sprained knee from Nov. 5-18, with backup center Isaiah Hartenstein starting six times in that stretch and second-year starter Jericho Sims starting the other two games. Hartenstein received an additional start in the game Robinson returned to the rotation to play 17 minutes off the bench on November 20 in a road loss to the Suns.
That duo will likely split time in Robinson’s absence, and Tom Thibodeau said Julius Randle could also play some minutes at center, with the coach using a smaller lineup late in Wednesday’s loss.
“He’s just the next guy. I love the depth we have at center,” Thibodeau said after the game. “We have three guys who are more than capable.”
Robinson, who signed a four-year, $60 million contract extension last summer, has since made 28 straight starts, averaging 7.9 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 29.4 minutes per game . He also has the best net rating among Knicks regulars – with the team outscoring opponents by 8.2 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court, while outscoring opponents by 1.1 points per 100 possessions when he’s off the court .
“It’s a big impact,” point guard Jaylen Brunson said Wednesday night. “Mitch is a presence down in the paint. Obviously, we want him to have a speedy, but healthy, recovery. But we want him 100%.”
The 24-year-old Robinson left Wednesday’s game in the first quarter and was ruled out for the rest of the game.
“Mitch is really the anchor for our defense. Coming out, it’s definitely an adjustment,” RJ Barrett said. “With everything, the rebounds, the blocked shots, so the factor that people don’t want to put on him so much. You [miss] the big time, all the offensive rebounds he gets. He is a big part of our team.”