Knicks center Mitchell Robinson is finally back on the court after missing 50 games due to a left ankle fracture.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mitchell Robinson who has been sidelined since December 8 from a serious ankle injury was upgraded to questionable and later made available to play for the New York Knicks in their road game against the Toronto Raptors.

Robinson’s availability for the rest of the 2023-2024 season after his injury was once considered doubtful. However, after observing him in last week’s practice, it was suggested by Tom Thibodeau that the Block Ness Monster’s recovery was ahead of both his teammates, OG Anunoby and Julius Randle, who still remain out for the time being. The big man averaged 10.3 rebounds and 6.2 points in 21 games prior to his ankle injury. Now, he’s back and ready to help the Knicks in their playoff push.

How was Mitchell Robinson’s first game back?

Robinson came off the bench for Isaiah Hartenstein, who currently remains the Knicks’ starting center. Mitch played for a total of 12 minutes and posted up eight points on 3-3 shooting, two rebounds and two blocks in the blowout against Toronto. And in an even more shocking yet impressive fashion, Robinson recorded his first block of the game with less than a minute after checking in.

Robinson is currently restricted to limited minutes until he eases back into the Knicks’ lineup. Hartenstein is also facing limited minutes, so Thibodeau is executing a rather unusual rotation with all three centers. For example, Toronto’s game opened with Hartenstein before Robinson came off the bench for him with five minutes to go in the first quarter and then Hartenstein made a return again with just over a minute remaining in the second. Aside from that, Precious Achiuwa was subbed in to close the half.

However, it is safe to say that Thibs’ plan worked considering the Knicks completely obliterated the Raptors into pieces. So, perhaps this could be a rotation that he can run until players like Robinson get back into the groove of things.

Being part of the second unit is also not a foreign concept for Robinson but the last time it happened for a stretch of games was November of 2021, a time way before New York made huge, impactful trades and signings that made the roster what it is today. He also made it quite clear under an Instagram post that he is not at all against being a bench player. “I’ll rather come off the bench maybe I can show more,” he commented.

After the Knicks handed the Raptors their largest home defeat in franchise history — a 44-point margin, to be exact — Coach Thibodeau said the following about Mitch’s performance: “You never know what to expect but it’s a good baseline for us. I liked the way he moved. He’ll get better and better each day.”

The defensive beast himself chimed in on his play, saying “At least my defense is kind of there. I’ve still got a little bit to work on with that.” Robinson’s teammates gave praise on his return, too. Donte DiVincenzo expressed his sheer delight at Robinson’s contributions on Wednesday night, saying “It was great just to have him out there, just to have him happy. Just his spirit, it really is contagious for us, not to mention what he brings on the defensive end.”

How does Robinson’s return help the Knicks with playoffs around the corner? 

On the offensive end, the Knicks hold very valuable offensive players who can amass buckets on the high end for the team significantly. This includes All-Star Jalen Brunson (who averages 27.4 points per game), DiVincenzo (who recently broke the record for the most threes made in a single game as a Knick with 11 threes), Miles McBride (who has really stepped up and can fire triples as if it is nothing), and Randle (when healthy). This allows Mitch to focus and hone in more on his primary role for the Knicks, which is being an absolute defensive threat and beast on the offensive boards.

When diving deeper into his rebounding prowess, Mitch averages 4.8 defensive rebounds per game as well as maintaining the highest mark in contested rebounds per game (5.9) in the whole league. To add, he also gathers the most overall rebounding chances per game (16.5) among the Knicks.

After the Knicks carved their commanding win against the Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers were defeated by the Charlotte Hornets, the Knicks moved up to the third seed on Wednesday night. Having one of their core pieces returning only raises their chances of a longer playoff run. The Knicks may even elevate higher in terms of the current NBA standings before playoffs roll around the corner with the return of other crucial players such as Anunoby and Randle.

All in all, Mitchell Robinson’s return can only foster good news for Knicks fans.

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