Mitchell Robinson, a free agent this summer, continued to demonstrate on Wednesday against the Wizards why he’s a leader in the paint for the Knicks.

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The New York Knicks have a lot of questions to answer this coming offseason. First and foremost, they will be seeking to extend RJ Barrett’s rookie contract, which would be a first multi-year deal for the Knicks since Charlie Ward’s days at the Garden. Secondly, they will have to address the hole at the point guard position, as it remains to be seen if head coach Tom Thibodeau is ready to give him a starting role.

One of the bigger decisions looming for this Knicks front office, however, is whether to compete with the open market when Mitchell Robinson becomes a free agent this summer.

Robinson came into the season rusty, to say the least. He had put on muscle to try and compete with stronger centers down low in hopes of becoming a more dominant force at that position. But what it really did for the Knicks big was make him a half step slow of his competition while eliminating his explosiveness at the rim. It was disheartening given the excitement surrounding his return to the starting lineup after another injury-laden season left him benched for most of last year.

So, Robinson dropped the muscle. He started to get into a groove after the first few weeks of play, and he looked to be back to his former self. After Friday’s 100-97 victory against the Washington Wizards, he’s averaging 9.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game in his last 10 contests, per Friday evening, he recorded an absurd 10 offensive rebounds compared to the Wizards’ three total offensive rebounds.

“Rolling to the rim, there’s no stat for that. Mitch is only allowing 3.5 offensive rebounds per game. That’s elite,” said Thibodeau of Robinson’s play.

Julius Randle had his share of praise for the center as well, waxing poetic about his impact during the season as an anchor for New York’s defense and ability to put pressure on the rim.

“It’s huge, man, what he’s doing every night, it’s not normal,” said Randle.

With Robinson’s defense helping push the Knicks closer to a play-in spot as the regular season winds down, New York looks poised to make a semblance of a run down the stretch to salvage what’s left of an otherwise disappointing year.

“No lead is safe. you’re fighting for your life,” Thibodeau said after Friday’s win over Washington. “We had careless turnovers in the first quarter…we gotta finish better…Whatever we gotta do, we gotta do right now.

While the Knicks had already addressed the departure of assistant coach Kenny Payne this week for the head coaching job at the University of Louisville, several players mentioned how the news of his leaving had impacted them.

Randle said “I cried like twice…he cares about me, about my wife, about my sons. There’s no one more deserving. Everything came full circle.”

Immanuel Quickley also had nothing but nice things to say about the Knicks’ now-former assistant coach, saying, “He’s like another father for me. I love him to death.”

Payne had spent nearly two seasons with New York under Thibodeau’s staff and was a player favorite on the coaching staff following his arrival from the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program.


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