Mitchell Robinson itching to return for Knicks playoff run: ‘That’s when it’s go time’

DENVER – When he heard about the stress fracture in his ankle, Mitchell Robinson’s reaction was visceral. 

“Hell yeah, I threw sh**,” Robinson said. 

It was, after all, yet another health setback and his third surgery since joining the Knicks, the second to his feet area.

Mitchell Robinson slams home a dunk earlier in the season. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

In this case, Robinson said he felt a slight discomfort during a game in Boston on Dec. 8.

He underwent x-ray and was cleared to keep playing – logging about five more minutes after the x-ray – only to receive a depressing phone call later following a re-evaluation. 

“I felt like I was finally getting in shape to the top of my career right there and the next thing you know. ….

Out indefinitely with a stress fracture.

And frustrated.

“I’m like, man, I’m trying to figure out ways to stop it from happening, the best ways that I can,” said Robinson, who broke his silence Thursday to traveling beat reporters. “And it’s like one thing after one thing. I felt like I was finally getting in shape to the top of my career right there and the next thing you know.”

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Eventually, Robinson turned the page to playing again.

He couldn’t walk for a while, then couldn’t run.

After over three months on the injury report, he returned to full practice Wednesday and – despite claiming ignorance to knowing when he’ll be in actual games “(the medical staff) is throwing me curveballs” – he’s certainly looking forward to the playoffs. 

“Oh, for sure,” Robinson said, “that’s when it’s go time.” 

The roster is vastly different then the last time Robinson played. RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Evan Fournier and Quentin Grimes are gone, replaced by OG Anunoby, Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic. Robinson may also have lost his starting job.

Mitchell Robinson says the Knicks medical team is “throwing him curveballs” in regards to his eligibility for the playoffs. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Tom Thibodeau hinted that Isaiah Hartenstein will remain in the lineup at center when Robinson returns, a credit to Hartenstein’s rise in this role. 

For his part, Robinson said he’d accept any role. As Thibodeau noted, the two centers will split time regardless because Hartenstein is on a minutes restriction while managing a sore Achilles.

“Whatever helps the team, I’m down for whatever,” Robinson said. “(I can do) the same things I did with the first unit – offensive rebounds, screen setting, rolling, pressure on the rim. Same thing.”

To that end, Robinson is especially excited about playing alongside OG Anunoby, who, assuming he’ll play again, will log enough time to span the first and second units.

“He’s active. He’s not afraid to take a chance,” Robinson said. “He might miss one here or there but that’s alright. He’ll get most of them.”

And if Anunoby misses a steal chance, Robinson, an All-Defense candidate before the injury, will be underneath the basket to clean it up.

“I can make up for it when he don’t get it,” Robinson said. 

But that’s still just a theoretical pairing. Although Robinson is getting closer to a return, Thibodeau declared on Wednesday that the 25-year-old “will have to take contact for a while” before stepping into a game.

For perspective, Anunoby returned to full practice following elbow surgery on March 7 and missed two more games before returning on March 12. 

Anunoby is also out again after his elbow “flared up,” according to Thibodeau, and the forward is “day-to-day.”

There’s a lot of moving parts but at least Robinson is just one last medical clearance away from coming back.

“I just simply wait for them to give me the okay,” he said. “I don’t want to get out there and have it happen again.”

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