A Mitch Dilemma

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Mitchell Robinson has returned to the lineup. Should the Knicks work him back into the starting lineup or should he come off the bench for the remainder of the season?

After a 50 game absence, Mitchell Robinson made his long awaited return against the Raptors Tuesday night. Robinson, who only played twelve minutes off the bench due to a minutes restriction, was able to make his presence felt from the moment he checked into the game.

The Return

In the end, Robinson finished the game with eight points, two rebounds, and two blocks as the Knicks dismantled the Raptors in a 145-141 win in Toronto. 

Ultimately, it’s great to see Robinson back on the floor. Especially when it was rumored that he wouldn’t return for the remainder of the season. Also, the fact that Robinson has come back just in time for the Knicks playoff push makes the return a huge deal for this team. Now, even though this is the case, Robinson’s role on this team for the rest of this season is something that the Knicks need to figure out soon.

Starter or Reserve?

In the past, Mitchell Robinson’s interior defense and tenacity on the boards has proved to be a game changer for this team. Earlier this season, he was leading the league in offensive rebounds and was trending towards being a DPOY candidate. In contrast, Isaiah Hartenstein has done a tremendous job filling in for Robinson. He is a big reason why the Knicks have remained one of the top defenses in the league. Also, Hartenstein has been an underrated passer and has shown the ability to score around the rim. Previously, in a loss to the Nuggets last week, Hartenstein tallied a career high 20 points while shooting 8-10 from the field and grabbing 8 boards. He’s been able to impact the team on both ends of the floor and has been a key contributor to the Knicks success.

Recently, Robinson expressed his feelings about being fine with coming off the bench prior to his return.

Even though Hartenstein should be the starter for now as Robinson gets back into the flow of things, the Knicks should consider bringing Robinson back as the starter in the postseason. 

Obviously, this would have to depend how well he plays these next few weeks. That alongside how he fits back in with the team. If Robinson starts to play similar to how he played  earlier in the season, he should be the starting center in the playoffs. Hartenstein has been great for this team but the interior presence that Robinson has the capability of having is hard to ignore. The comments Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic made about Robinson’s presence during Tuesday night’s postgame press conference  speaks to the effect Robinson can have on the court.

Bring Him Along Slowly

In conclusion, the Knicks need to bring Mitchell Robinson alone slowly. Due to how well Hartenstein has performed in Robinson’s absence, there shouldn’t be a rush to get Robinson back into the starting lineup. Usually, it takes some time for a player to get back into the swing of things after suffering the type of ankle injury Robinson did. 

Coach Thibodeau should continue to monitor how well he plays these next couple of weeks. Then he can determine who’s the starting center going into the postseason. In the meantime, let’s see if Robinson can get back to the player he was before the injury. It might be tough due to the short amount of time he has before the postseason but it’s not impossible. Hopefully, for the team’s sake, Coach Thibodeau will make the right at the center position as the postseason approaches. But if Robinson proves that he still can play at the level we saw at the beginning of the season, the starting job should be his. We’ll see if he can get back to playing at that level. Good to have you back Mitch!

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