Knicks: Mitchell Robinson trolls Deandre Ayton, eyes payback vs Spurs

Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks
Jan 2, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) dunks in the second quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson trolled Deandre Ayton after outplaying the former No. 1 overall pick in a 19-point blowout of the Phoenix Suns two days ago.

Robinson made fun of Ayton’s pregame routine, where the Suns center was seen heaving a halfcourt shot while shouting, “Winners work, baby!”

Robinson dominated their matchup with a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds, and one block without a single turnover). Ayton, who signed a max extension with the Suns in the offseason, was held to 12 points and five rebounds without a blocked shot while committing three turnovers.

This season, Robinson is on a mission after inking a four-year deal worth $60 million with the Knicks. His relentless work rate in the paint, especially in the offensive glass is among the elites in the NBA.

His 8.9 rebounds and 4.3 offensive rebounds per game are career highs. Only Steven Adams has been rebounding the ball better than him in the offensive glass. The Memphis Grizzlies center leads the league in offensive rebounds (5.1) and contested offensive rebounds (3.9), with Robinson not far behind (3.7 contested offensive rebounds).

But Robinson is still prone to inconsistency, like his scoreless, six-rebound effort in the Knicks’ stunning upset loss to the Spurs last week, which became a black eye to his monster December.

“That’s the challenge is to keep coming forward and very quietly, [Robinson] has played at a very high level during this same stretch. When you look at his net rating over the last 15 games, it’s really very, very high. And so, his impact on the rim defensively, protecting the rim — his pick-and-roll coverage is terrific. People are always looking for him.

And then offensively, I think he’s put a lot of extra work in. He’s getting more comfortable with the ball. Obviously, putting pressure on the rim, rolling, but the offensive rebounding is invaluable to us. It’s huge. And then those are big-time multiple-effort plays that he’s making, and I think when guys do that — whether it’s diving for a loose ball, offensive rebound, a hustle-type play — that does nothing but unite and inspire your team. So, we’re feeding off that energy.”

Tom Thibodeau via NY Post

Over his last 15 games, Robinson averaged 8.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.3 assists and 1.1 steals while registering a plus-8.9 plus-minus during that stretch.

There were glimpses of the comfortability with the ball which Thibodeau waxed about.

The Knicks’ young center did a between-the-legs crossover against the Suns and, in another sequence, dished out a no-look assist to Immanuel Quickley in the corner for a three-pointer. His development in the offensive end is crucial to his growth to become an elite two-way center.

After outplaying and trolling Ayton, the Knicks-Spurs rematch presents an opportunity for Robinson to work on his consistency.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo