Mitchell Robinson injury re-sparks talks on Knicks’ need for center

Mitchell Robinson Knicks
Mitchell Robinson
Elsa/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks are going to be without young center Mitchell Robinson, again, for an extended stretch after the 22-year-old defensive stalwart fractured his ankle during Saturday night’s upset victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in which New York pulled out a win without All-Star forward, Randle.

Robinson suffered the injury in just his fourth game back with the team after breaking a bone in his hand that forced him out for 15 contests. He landed awkwardly after going up for a steal midway through the first quarter on Saturday night in which Bucks veteran center Brook Lopez sent him to the floor with his forearm.

“Soon as I start to get back to myself this happens. I watched the video a few times that was some bs,” Robinson tweeted Sunday morning. “Been taking a beating all year long smfh [shaking my f—ing head].”

The severity of his loss was captured live when MSG Networks interviewed Derrick Rose after the win as the veteran point guard threw his head back in anguish before getting choked up.

“It sucks, man,” Rose — who has battled back through a litany of injuries throughout his career, said. “Especially the more I got to know him. But for someone like him, seeing how hard he worked to get back, for this to happen, it just sucks.

“The team, everybody knows — he knows how the team feels. One on one, I didn’t talk to him. But I went through a lot of injuries myself so I know his mind is probably racing right now, going crazy. So I’ll probably let him calm down and [Sunday] whenever he’s free, I’ll probably chop it up with him.”

Robinson had started 29 of the 31 games he appeared in this season, averaging 8.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per outing. 

With him potentially sidelined indefinitely this season — and with the Knicks possessing the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference at 24-22 — head coach Tom Thibodeau is now left with veteran big men in Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson to keep the center position afloat while Robinson recovers. 

The two have performed admirably off the bench and in relief when Robinson was dealing with that broken hand — but the Knicks are now officially in the stretch run of a shortened season and they need another center. 

Just before Saturday night, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported that the Knicks would not pursue former All-Star center Andre Drummond, who had recently been bought out by the Cleveland Cavaliers following the NBA’s trade deadline last week, making him a free agent. 

That philosophy could have changed, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Drummond will be signing with the Los Angeles Lakers — a sizable target officially off the Knicks’ board.

The 27-year-old Mount Vernon native is averaging 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game this season, which has been consistent with the stat line he has put up over the last three years. 

He would have been a considerable rental for the Knicks to finish off this season and potentially for the playoffs to keep the center spot warm for Robinson once he’s able to return, even if that doesn’t come until next season. 

Now the Knicks will have to look elsewhere on the free-agent market to address its depth concerns at the 5.