Knicks bracing for worst-case scenario with Mitchell Robinson’s injury

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Next man up!

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has no other recourse but to lean on Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson as the next men up to fill up the gaping hole vacated by Mitchell Robinson.

The 23-year old Robinson, the Knicks’ defensive anchor, suffered a fractured right hand in the Knicks’ 109-101 win over the Washington Wizards Friday night. He hurt his right hand when his hand collided with Julius Randle’s elbow while going for a rebound. Robinson had 10 points, 14 rebounds, and four steals in 20 minutes before he left.

(Editor’s note: ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported minutes after this story came out that Robinson will undergo sugery and is expected to be out four to six weeks).

Robinson injury explained

A New York City-based Performance Physical Therapist & High-Performance Consultant had a dimmer outlook before Wojnarowski’s report.

“I watched the tape of the play. It looks like [Robinson] sustained the fracture in a wrist extended position, which is most commonly associated with distal radial fractures,” Dr. Ernest S. Eusebio told Empire Sports Media.

Dr. Eusebio, who has worked with NBA, MLB, NFL athletes, and Olympians, is the founder of the Wolves Performance & Lifestyle Collective, an all-encompassing high-performance consultancy providing solutions in Professional Sport, Entertainment, & Fortune 500. He is also an awarded clinician by the American Health Council (Best in Patient Care).

Dr. Eusebio explained that there are several types of that injury.

“But typically they all involve fractures or displacement of the local structures proximal to the distal radius. Bones typically heal within a 6-8 week time frame, but high-level rim protectors, like Mitch, who have to consistently use their hands to anchor defense and finish plays at the rim, might need to undergo specialized performance physical therapy for about 10-12 weeks to feel normal again,” Dr. Eusebio added.

After Wojnarowski’s report came out, Dr. Eusebio said that “historically, the 4-6 weeks is the timeline of clearance to run through some practice time.”

“They found a fourth metacarpal fracture. Better outlook than a true distal radial fracture,” Dr. Eusebio explained. “It’s still the same region of the hand.”

Thibodeau doesn’t want to dwell on the negative as the Knicks are in the thick of the fight for a playoff spot this season. Entering Saturday’s home game against the Houston Rockets, the Knicks are on the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with their 12-15 record.

Life without Robinson

Thibodeau will lean on their depth, and Kevin Knox, whose status he earlier described as situational, may find his way back into the rotation.


“We’ll have some flexibility. We could play smaller,” Thibodeau said after last night’s win in Washington.

“I like what Taj gives us. Obviously, the great value and the things that Mitch brought to the team was the defensive component, and I feel that Nerlens does many of those things extremely well. And of course, Taj, that’s been his strength throughout his career. So I don’t want to lose that piece of it. But I like the way Obi’s coming on. He’s giving us good minutes. So we have that option. We can downsize and can play Kevin (Knox) at the 4. Play Julius at the 5. There’s a number of things that we can do,” he added. 

Collective effort

Thibodeau was using a tight 10-man rotation before Robinson’s injury.

Noel is usually the first center off the bench to spell Robinson. He anchored the Knicks’ defense in the second half last night, and he is expected to replace Robinson in the starting lineup. He had four points, four rebounds, and three blocks in 16 minutes, while Gibson is averaging 7.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench since Derrick Rose’s arrival.

“I like the versatility of the team. But anytime you lose a player of Mitch’s caliber, we have to make sure we’re playing hard. We can’t replace that individually. We have to do it collectively, and everyone has gonna have to step up,” Thibodeau stressed. 

Life without Robinson begins today when they go up against the undermanned Houston Rockets, who will be missing key players Victor Oladipo (sore right foot) and Christian Wood (ankle sprain). Veteran bruiser PJ Tucker is questionable for the Rockets.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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