The Knicks became further undermanned at center Wednesday, when Taj Gibson missed the season opener against the Celtics due to what head coach Tom Thibodeau called “good personal reasons.” The reasons? Gibson became a father Tuesday.
“Whenever he’s ready, he’s ready,’’ Thibodeau said. “Taj, I have complete trust in. We’re excited for him.’’
Center Nerlens Noel also was out with a sore left knee, so Mitchell Robinson was thrust into the starting-center role and Thibodeau was forced to use active rookie second-round pick Jericho Sims for seven minutes of the first half at center.
Robinson, after playing just the preseason finale because of his rehab after surgery for a broken right foot, didn’t miss a beat. He posted a solid double-double — 11 points and 17 rebounds (five offensive) — as the Knicks survived a double-overtime thriller, 138-134, at the frenetic Garden.
Thibodeau was thrilled by Robinson’s first regular-season game since late March.
“It’s just the tip of the iceberg,’’ the coach said.
“Everybody knows what he does defensively – active blocked shots,’’ Randle said of Robinson. “And he saved us with a lot of second-chance points.’’
Thibodeau’s other option was using a small-ball lineup, which looked good in the preseason finale, of Obi Toppin at small forward and Julius Randle at center.
That worked well in the second half, when Toppin scored 14 points — mostly in transition.
Sims, selected 58th in the draft out of Texas, was a hit in summer league with his live-wire nature and rebounding. He had a good start to preseason, but didn’t play the final six exhibition quarters.
“The approach is so important, readiness, you never know when you’ll be called upon,’’ Thibodeau said. “We had Nerlens out and Jericho was able to get some minutes and Mitch was out early on. We also had the opportunity to look at Obi and Julius together as well. We’ll see how it unfolds. We’ll see what the matchups are on the floor — big or small.’’
Robinson played just the preseason finale, in which he logged 27 minutes. Thibodeau said he’s still being monitored.
Last week, Sims’ former Texas head coach, Shaka Smart, told Post Sports+ why the center fell in the draft.
“I think people sometimes over-complicate the draft,” Smart said. “Maybe they were looking for reasons not to draft Jericho instead of reasons to draft him. The Knicks really liked him throughout the pre-draft process. It was great for Jericho and great for the Knicks he ended up there.”
Veteran PG Derrick Rose had an off night with a 3-for-11 ledger and nine points.
This marked Thibodeau’s first opener as Knicks head coach in front of fans.
“I think we all get excited about it,’’ Thibodeau said. “First game of the season. You’re looking forward to the challenge that’s ahead. Everyone looks forward to it, it’s exciting for everyone. Fans being here. We’re going on a journey and to meet the challenges that you face and keep going.’’