Knicks injury update: Mitchell Robinson still not cleared for contact

Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks
Jan 18, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Washington Wizards center Daniel Gafford (21) and New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) box out for a rebound in the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson’s return from thumb surgery is still without a definite timetable. But the team remains hopeful of getting their starting center back after the All-Star break.

“He’s doing a lot on the court right now,” said Thibodeau, while quickly adding he has yet to do contact drills. “So the next step will be when he gets cleared, and hopefully, that will be soon.”

The Knicks are 5-5 since Robinson went down with the injury on Jan. 18 at Washington. Their defense has suffered without Robinson, tumbling down to 26th in the defensive rating (119.4) from no. 2 (110.0) during their 15-8 run since Thibodeau shortened his rotation on Dec. 4 until that ill-fated road loss against the Wizards.

But over their last four games, the Knicks’ defense has improved to ninth-best (111.9) in the league.

Robinson’s backups Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims have held the fort during that stretch.

Hartenstein averaged 9.5 rebounds, 4.3 points, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks, while Sims posted 4.8 rebounds, 4.0 points, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 steals as the Knicks went 3-1, which included big wins against the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers.

The Knicks have four more games, including Friday night’s rematch with the 76ers, before the All-Star break.

The 24-year-old Robison is averaging 7.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks this season after inking a $60 million, four-year extension last summer. He is tied with Atlanta Hawks’ Clint Capela as the league’s second-best offensive rebounder with 4.3 per game behind Memphis center Steven Adams (5.1).

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