As Tom Thibodeau reviewed the list of injuries for Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons, he dropped a bit of news by speculating on Friday’s lineup and just who might be ready for the final preseason game.
While Mitchell Robinson has been sidelined since suffering a broken right foot on March 27 in Milwaukee and even in training camp, he spent much of his time working alone as the team progressed. But Thibodeau said Robinson has returned to full contact and with yet another practice could be ready to make his game debut Friday against Indiana.
“Yes, he’s fully engaged now,” Thibodeau said. “We want one more exercise, he will be good … Every day there is more contact. There is more he does and then you will see how he reacts the next day and there is still the conditioning element. “He’s done a lot. He’s come back every night. He’s put a lot of extra work into it. We’re fine with where he is.”
Without Robinson again on Wednesday, the Knicks remained undefeated and topped the pistons, 108-100, behind 29 points and 11 rebounds from Julius Randle and a 21-point effort from the Taj Gibson.
If getting a full lineup back is a goal for next Wednesday’s season opener, then so is setting a tone, and the Knicks did that and inserted starters back in a tight game midway through the fourth quarter, playing with the intensity of a playoff – play down the stretch.
In Thibodeau’s first season with the Knicks, Robinson was an observer of much of it as the franchise turned its fortunes around. He played in just 31 games and suffered a broken hand on February 12, putting him on the sidelines in 15 games. He returned to action and lasted just four games before suffering the foot injury that put him out of the game for the rest of the season.
He spent the offseason in New York part of the time and the rest in Louisiana. Wherever he was, he worked on what he could, strength training, ball handling, form shooting and watching movies. Thibodeau said that when Robinson was in Louisiana, the team had a coach and trainer with them.
“I think it’s important for us to be strongly involved in a rehabilitation that he is undergoing,” Thibodeau said. “And he responded … It’s not easy going through a long rehab. That was the only thing Derrick did. [Rose] did before, for three consecutive years. So I know the challenges that come with it.
“There’s a physical challenge. There’s a mental challenge too. You’re away from your teammates. It’s not easy to do. So we wanted to make sure he got through it. Aaron Brooks was very much with him, Kenny Payne has been with him.The whole staff was involved in him.And he has really grown.Not only the physical part but who he is; he is much more confident.I think he has a great understanding now of the league what “We are eager to get him back out there.”
The Knicks managed without Robinson last year thanks to the play by Nerlen’s Noel and Taj Gibson, but Thibodeau said he thinks Robinson’s return is important to the team’s hopes.
“He’s a unique player, the things he brings to our team — and it’s not just on the defensive end,” said Thibodeau. “The defensive end, I think we all know he’s an elite rim protector. He makes people miss inside. He can cover a lot of ground. He can cover mistakes. But offensively he also adds a lot to our team, just by putting pressure on the rim. And you throw the ball everywhere close to the rim he has. good hands. He will get it. He is very good at dribbles, that kind, so we miss him offensively too. “
Notes and quotes: Kemba Walker was held out for what the team called rest. Thibodeau said: “Just more rest than anything else. This time where everyone needs to be picked up, we’ll be keyed, we just want to make sure everyone’s ready for the first game.” … Nerlens Noel was also kept out for the third series of the preseason with what he called the hoarding problem.
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