Knicks fully vaccinated, take cautious approach on Mitchell Robinson

knicks, mitchell robinson
Mar 27, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) battles Milwaukee Bucks forward Axel Toupane (66) for control of the ball during the first quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks GM Scott Perry announced Friday that the entire team, including their coaching staff, are fully vaccinated.

It is an important first step for the Knicks as they look forward to building on their surprising playoff run last season.

“This was all internally driven, and a lot of credit goes to our players, our medical staff,” Perry said via News Daily. “It is something that we’ve been on top of really the entire year.”

“They took this thing very seriously and took the responsibility to get that done. So, we’re very proud of that fact, and we’re gonna move forward,” Perry added during a media briefing with team president Leon Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau.

New York is one of the two NBA markets that require home teams to show proof of vaccination to access indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment and playing venues. San Francisco, where the Golden State Warriors play, is the other market that has the same health and safety protocols.

The Knicks’ announcement came after the Brooklyn Nets said that they have a couple of players who are still unvaccinated. But Nets GM Sean Marks noted that they are expected to meet the NBA and the state requirements before the season starts.

Fox Sports reported Thursday that Kyrie Irving is one of the Nets players who have yet to receive a vaccine. However, Irving was also seen seated courtside at the Staples Center, a section that requires a vaccination pass, earlier this month in a WNBA game.

The vaccination protocol, along with the continued threat of the COVID-19, will again be a swing factor in the upcoming NBA season.

As of Thursday, the NBA said the league is 90 percent vaccinated.

Last season, many playoff teams missed multiple players at one point due to the COVID-19 protocols that put a huge dent in their campaign. Fortunately, the Knicks dodged that, although Derrick Rose and Alec Burks have contracted the virus at different stages of the season.

The Knicks, except for Mitchell Robinson, are ready to plunge into what is expected a competitive training camp starting next week.

Robinson, who put on some serious weight and looked brolic in the offseason, will not be rushed to come back from his broken foot injury though he’s medically cleared. The Knicks are taking a cautious approach after the young center suffered two injuries that required surgeries last season.

“We love Mitchell Robinson and look forward to seeing him play,” said Rose via New York Post.

Rose spoke to the media for the first time since Thibodeau’s introductory presser or exactly after 421 days.

“We’re following what our medical people say and not going to rush it and going step by step,” Thibodeau said via New York Post. “That’s the great value of having Taj [Gibson] and Nerlens Noel. We love the depth at that position. (We’re) excited about season and not going to rush.”

With this development, Nerlens Noel could continue to start with Taj Gibson backing him up as Robinson will be eased back into the rotation.

This will be a critical year for Robinson contract-wise as he will become a restricted free agent if the Knicks don’t extend him. The former second-round pick is eligible to sign a contract extension up to a maximum of four years, $53 million. But the Knicks want to see first how he looks on the court after two serious injuries.

“Mitchell was just starting to take off when he got hurt,’’ Thibodeau added.“This summer, he’s put in a lot of time, conditioning-wise, strength training. He’s a big part of what we’re going to do.”

So the waiting game continues, which the Knicks can afford to do owing to their depth.

Thibodeau and his staff will also have a decision to make on Luca Vildoza whether the team will guarantee his contract on or before opening night.

Vildoza is back in New York after suffering a foot injury during the NBA Summer League, just a week after his Olympic stint.

Thibodeau will have 17 active bodies at his disposal in next week’s training camp, with Robinson not expected to participate in full-court, 5-on-5 drills.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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