Mitchell Robinson’s absence not lost on busy Knicks owner James Dolan

James Dolan, New York Knicks

The New York Knicks are the least of James Dolan’s concerns these days.

The polarizing Knicks owner has his hands full, from combating his legal enemies by using the controversial facial recognition features at Madison Square Garden and his other properties to feuding with State Liquor Authority, which threatened to take away his entertainment properties’ liquor license, and the ambitious MSG Sphere project in Las Vegas which he said is sucking up all his time.

But amid his busy schedule, Dolan is keeping tabs on his NBA team.

“The Knicks are doing well. They’re not at the top of the league, but they’re not at the bottom, and they’re in a playoff position now,” Dolan said Thursday in a rare TV appearance with Fox5-New York. “And we just lost a player, Mitchell Robinson, for four weeks, and he was important to us. So we have to make it through the next four weeks.”

Robinson underwent successful surgery last Jan. 19 to repair his fractured right thumb at the Hospital for Special Surgery and is out for at least three weeks. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated in the first week of February. But based on Dolan’s interview, it appears Robinson will be out longer, which could extend to the NBA All-Star break.

The Knicks are 1-2 since Robinson went down with the injury.

Robinson has shown significant growth in his fourth season after receiving a new $60 million, four-year deal from Dolan. The 24-year-old center is leading the league in all box-out categories while coming in second to Memphis’ Steven Adams among the offensive rebounding leaders. His intimidating presence inside the paint has become the backbone of the Knicks defense which was the second-best (110.0 defensive rating) in the league since Thibodeau shortened his rotation last Dec. 4 until Robinson’s injury.

Without Robinson, the Knicks’ defense (127.8 defensive rating) has tumbled to second-worst in the league over their past three games.

The Knicks remaining centers Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims are scrambling to fill the void.

In their lone win during Robinson’s latest absence, the Knicks barely beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 105-103, Tuesday night for a rare win at the Garden.

Hartenstein stepped up big against the Cavaliers, playing his best game defensively in Knicks uniform, foiling Donovan Mitchell twice inside the final minute. But the NBA’s Last Two Minutes report ruled Hartenstein’s final defensive play on Mitchell as a foul, which could have given the Cavaliers star two free throws for a chance to tie the game with 6.5 seconds left.

With the Knicks having the toughest remaining schedule, per Tankathon, beginning with Thursday’s road game in Boston, Hartenstein and Sims must always bring their A-game to allay Dolan’s fears.

His busy schedule has given Dolan no time to meddle with the team’s affairs. Dolan has been hands-off with team president Leon Rose running the show, but the ‘sensitive’ owner can be easily ticked off if the Knicks can’t make it through the next four weeks without Robinson and irate fans begin to pester him again with ‘Sell the Knicks’ protests.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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