Mitchell Robinson rolled his ankle in practice, putting his Knicks regular-season debut on Wednesday in jeopardy, plus Dennis Smith Jr.’s management change.
While the NBA’s 2019–20 regular season kicks off tonight’s with a pair of matchups on national television including the New Orleans Pelicans and Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, the New York Knicks do not play until tomorrow. The Knicks travel to San Antonio to take on the Spurs, and they could be without their All-Rookie second team center Mitchell Robinson.
The team is listing the 21-year-old Robinson and veteran power forward/center Taj Gibson both as “questionable.” Gibson, who signed as a free agent with the Knicks in the past offseason to a two-year deal, did not compete in New York’s preseason finale last Friday against the Pelicans. He is dealing with a sore right calf.
Fizdale said Mitchell Robinson rolled ankle going for offensive rebound. Questionable for San Antonio.
— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) October 22, 2019
Robinson, however, a bright spot for the rebuilding Knicks and the team’s defensive anchor at the 5, rolled his ankle in practice, per the New York Post‘s Marc Berman. It’s officially a “sprained right ankle.” Robinson had started in three of the Knicks’ four preseason games and looked to be the shot-blocking, intimidating force in the paint that he can be. Instead, the Knicks might have to start 6-foot-11 Bobby Portis, the 24-year-old former Chicago Bull and Washington Wizard they signed to a two-year, $31 million deal in the summer, at center on opening night.
Robinson missed 16 games during his rookie season but finished strongly, starting for New York in the final seven-game stretch and demonstrating himself to be the team’s center of the future after the team nabbed the high school prospect who sat out his potential freshman season at Western Kentucky in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft.
Elsewhere, Dennis Smith Jr., the 21-year-old lead guard who the Knicks picked up his fourth-year team option yesterday alongside Frank Ntilikina’s and Kevin Knox’s respective guaranteed deals, changed management this week. Smith, who was acquired by the Knicks last January from the Dallas Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis trade and was selected one pick in the 2017 draft after Ntilikina, announced via his social media feeds that signed with Roc Nation Sports, the New York rapper Jay-Z founded sports agency.
— Dennis Smith Jr. (@Dennis1SmithJr) October 22, 2019
Multiple members of the Brooklyn Nets are also represented by Roc Nation Sports, including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Irving, the former Boston Celtics point guard who signed with Brooklyn in the offseason, picking the Nets over the Knicks, not-so-subtly signed with Roc Nation in the weeks leading up to his free agency decision.
Former Nets CEO Brett Yormark is brothers with Roc Nation Sports president Michael, who in turn hired Brett following his departure from Brooklyn. Chinese-Canadian billionaire Joseph Tsai completed the majority shares purchase of the Barclays Center from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in the offseason, with Barclays shifting organizational structure, including Yormark’s exit and former Turner executive David Levy entering as CEO.
The Knicks tip off with the Spurs at 8:30 p.m. EST tomorrow night, with a starting lineup still to be decided. Robinson was a mortal lock alongside rookie R.J. Barrett, veteran wing Marcus Morris, and power forward Julius Randle in tow. The only question had been who starts at point guard, with reportedly Elfrid Payton leading the pack. However, head coach David Fizdale could have two spots to fill, changing the equation almost entirely on the eve of the regular season for New York.