Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Knicks coach Mike Miller believes Mitchell Robinson is playing the best basketball of his career lately. But Miller has no plans to insert Robinson into the starting lineup.
Here's why: "How well Mitch is playing. It's that simple," Miller said on Saturday. "We were looking at it, if there comes a time we need to change it then we'll change it, but right now he's playing the best basketball of his career.
"We got into the decision the other night, should we go ahead and start him now or keep him in his role. We kept him in his role and then started him in the third quarter and he put together another good game. Taj (Gibson) has gotten us off to great starts. Sometimes it's a matchup… But for the most part it's because Mitchell is so effective in the role that he's playing. We just haven't been put in a situation where we think it's time to change it."
Robinson, 21, has come off the bench behind Gibson for much of the season. With the Knicks no longer in playoff contention, it's fair to wonder why younger players like Robinson, Kevin Knox and Damyean Dotson aren't playing more prominent roles.
Miller has said in the past that he and GM Scott Perry believe that it's important for young players to play quality minutes. They aren't in favor of simply giving young players minutes solely because the team is out of contention.
"We're looking at development in a lot of different ways and not saying it's just about, you just need 25 minutes a game to develop," Miller said last week. "I think there's more to it, there's more ways that we can help these guys grow then doing that. They're getting experience and they're getting opportunities and they're learning. We're seeing growth."
Is that the right development strategy for these Knicks? Reasonable people can disagree on the subject.
New York's philosophy has prevented players like Knox, Dotson and Allonzo Trier from playing more minutes in what has become a lost season.
Robinson, for what it's worth, said that he doesn't care about starting or coming off the bench.
"I'm just here to play, play hard and help my teammates out," Robinson said. "…. It doesn't matter what group they throw me in. I'm gonna still do what I need to do on both ends of the floor."
Entering play Saturday, Robinson was averaging 14 points on 81 percent shooting in his last seven games. He was blocking three shots per game in that span and grabbing nine rebounds (4.4 offensive) in 25 minutes.
The Louisiana native credited talks with Gibson for his strong play.
"He's telling me to stay focused a little bit more," said Robinson, who was drafted No. 36 overall by the Knicks in 2018. "Execute plays a little bit better. Screen better. Usually I get in there I kind of lean a little bit here and there. Just beat the guy to the spot (for screens)."
Miller and the coaching staff have been impressed by Robinson's play of late.
"He's playing with such force and such energy out there," Miller said before the game against Chicago. "I think in some of these situations, he's learned from now from this experience that he has over the last year and a half that he is seeing these things. And maybe it's positioning, maybe it's the verticality, part of it's knowing the players he's playing against. But I really do think things are coming together for him and he has been highly, highly effective with his play."
Regardless of his role for the rest of the season, Robinson seems to have established himself as a significant part of the Knicks' future. If he can remain healthy and continue to develop, he'll give New York the kind of rim-running, defensive anchor that many NBA teams covet.