Robinson was dominant in the first half, finishing with 10 points, 14 rebounds, an assist and two steals while going 5-for-6 from the field in 20 minutes of action. Knicks forward Julius Randle said after the game that Robinson was hurt at the 3:24 mark of the second quarter, when Robinson went up to try to contest a shot by Wizards forward Rui Hachimura and banged his hand on Randle’s elbow.
“Yeah, it was probably the best half of the year for him,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. “And, obviously, we know how important he is to the team. Anytime someone gets hurt, you certainly feel for him.”
With Robinson out, the Knicks will fill the void with Nerlens Noel, who had four points, four rebounds and three blocked shots in 16 minutes Friday, and veteran Taj Gibson, who had six points and three rebounds in 12 minutes.
It’s unclear how much time Robinson will miss, but Thibodeau said the team will know more after Robinson meets with the team’s doctors Saturday in New York.
“We feel for him, but we have to get ready for the next one, and as you know the game keeps coming,” Thibodeau said. “I thought Nerlens stepped in for him in the second half, and that’s the great value in having a guy like Taj on the roster.”
Robinson, 22, entered Friday’s game averaging 8.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in a career-high 29.6 minutes per game for the Knicks, having firmly entrenched himself as the team’s starting center. After Noel started in the preseason, Thibodeau made Robinson the starter to begin the season, and he has started all 27 games the Knicks have played en route to a 12-15 record.
The Knicks have an option on Robinson’s contract for next season that they can either exercise, keeping him under contract for $1.8 million, which would make him an unrestricted free agent after the 2021-22 season, or decline, which would make him a restricted free agent after this season.
In addition to Noel and Gibson, Thibodeau said the team could go smaller. He singled out rookie Obi Toppin, who had eight points and three rebounds while going 4-for-5 from the field Friday night, as a potential option.
When asked if he thought the Knicks would need to go outside the organization to fill the void left by Robinson’s injury, Thibodeau said he thinks the team’s existing talent is good enough.
“We’ll have some flexibility,” Thibodeau said. “We can play smaller. I like what Taj gives us. Obviously the great value in the things that Mitch brought to the team is the defensive component. Nerlens does many of those same things extremely well, and of course Taj, that’s been his strength throughout his career.
“I don’t want to lose that piece of it, but I like the way Obi is coming on, he’s giving us good minutes. We could downsize and play Kevin [Knox] at the four, we could play Julius at the five.
“I like the versatility of the team, but any time you lose a player of Mitch’s caliber we have to keep playing hard. You don’t replace a player like that individually, you have to do it collectively and step up.”