The more they crowd Mitchell Robinson, the more the opposition sends double and triple teams to thwart his offensive rebounding, the more the Knicks center believes:
“I’m a dangerous man,” Robinson said Sunday. “You got to put three guys on me to keep me off the glass. That says a lot. I’m really becoming something.”
It’s been a long and diverging road for Robinson to this point in his career. He skipped college and entered the NBA greener than slime, struggling with injuries and sloppy fouls before the Knicks made their big commitment last summer with a $60 million contract.
Now Robinson is the longest tenured Knick as a second-round pick in 2018. He embraced his niche and is thriving as an elite rebounder, leading the Eastern Conference in offensive boards this season.
He’s also not afraid to express bravado through the media.
“Once I get to the [rebounding] spot and I’m playing there, it’s going to be hard to move me,” Robinson said. “You might as well try to pick me up and just move me out the way. If I’m on the ground, you’re done. You’re done. You got to do what you got to do. Aye, I’m 270 [pounds]. Ain’t lightweight.”
Heading into the season’s third matchup Monday against the Bucks, Robinson expects adjustments. He dominated the glass in the previous game on Nov. 30, when Robinson grabbed 20 rebounds — including 11 offensive — and kept the Knicks competitive before the 109-103 defeat.
“They’ll adjust, send two on me to keep me off the glass,” Robinson said. “But I’ll continue to fight. Get rebounds. See how it goes.”
In the first matchup against the Bucks in October, Robinson was outmatched by Giannis Antetokounmpo and fell into quick foul trouble. It’s never easy to stop the Greek Freak but Robinson isn’t lacking confidence.
“I learned the game,” Robinson said. “Came from high school and straight to the league. That’s a big adjustment right there. So years go by, the game gets slower and slower. I see everything.”
STATUS UPDATES FOR OBI AND RJ
Obi Toppin participated in full practice and could play Monday for the first time in over a month.
“He ramped it up,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s practiced, contact. So it was good. We’ll see where he is [Monday].”
Toppin fractured a bone in his right kneecap on Dec. 7. He was cleared for Wednesday’s game against the Spurs but the Knicks didn’t feel comfortable giving him game minutes without 5-on-5 contact practices.
He is expected to return as the backup power forward, meaning either Isaiah Hartenstein or Jericho Sims will be dropped from the rotation.
“Whatever we decide to do, that’s part of sacrificing for the team and putting the team first,” Thibodeau said.
RJ Barrett, meanwhile, participated in most of practice for the first time since suffering a gruesome finger injury on Dec. 27. Despite the progress, Barrett’s stitches weren’t yet removed as of Sunday afternoon and Thibodeau didn’t sound as optimistic about his availability for Monday.
“I don’t know,” the coach said. “[Sunday]was the first day that he was really active in practice.”
Barrett was officially listed as ‘doubtful.’