Knicks facing big-man issues with Noel and Robinson injured

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The New York Knicks have been relatively healthy this season, despite the center position where they’ve been dealing with a few issues. Veteran center Nerlens Noel missed the first few games of the season due to a sore knee, and after twisting it quite violently several games ago, he hasn’t made a return since. Noel looked like his normal self upon his return, guarding the perimeter valiantly and providing elite defense in the paint.

The Knicks signed Noel to a three-year extension this past off-season. He averaged 1.8 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 6.8 rebounds in four games before going down once again. The team has relied heavily on Mitchell Robinson to pick up the slack, coming off a fractured foot in which required months of rehabilitation.

However, Robinson left Monday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers prematurely due to a sore left ankle. Head coach Tom Thibodeau seems to think it isn’t anything severe but more precautionary, which would be an excellent development for the team.



“We’ll see where he’s at,’’ Tom Thibodeau said. “Don’t think it’s serious.’’

Despite Robinson escaping without any significant damage, he could miss the team’s next game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday at 7:30 PM.

The Magic are off to a tough start this year but earned their first win of the season against New York several weeks ago. This might be the best game for Robinson to miss, as he works his way through the pain and begins to leave his foot injury behind. Thibodeau indicated he is still dealing with a bit of discomfort, so he is a work in progress.

“He’s still working his way through it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Obviously he was out a long period of time. He’s a work in progress in terms of conditioning. He’s banged up a little bit. That’s all normal. If you’re a pro athlete, that’s what happens.’’

In the meantime, expect Taj Gibson to earn ample playing time, as he featured in 29 minutes against Indiana in the win.

Gibson is a reliable veteran who exerts maximum effort. While his rebounding can be spotty at times, his perimeter defense and aggression give him substantial value as a reserve. Thibodeau may try to develop a few player combinations to try and mask the loss of Noel and Robinson in the short term, potentially pairing Julius Randle with Obi Toppin to maximize their height.

However, it is not out of the question that rookie Jericho Sims could earn more minutes, given his athleticism. His defensive position has been relatively poor this season, but that was expected given his lack of experience.