Tom Thibodeau hinted he may just start Mitchell Robinson at center on opening night Wednesday against Boston.
While Robinson said he thought he’d have enough practices to start after his debut in Friday’s preseason finale in which he played 27 minutes off the bench, the Knicks coach said earlier in the week he’d probably stick with veteran Taj Gibson, who started all four preseason games.
That may change. It sounds as if Robinson’s practices in the days leading up to Wednesday have gone well.
Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel, who was re-signed as a free agent to a three-year, $31 million deal, is not in the picture after missing all of the preseason with hamstring/knee woes.
“I’m not sure yet, I want to see where Mitch is and hopefully Mitch will be ready and Taj is always ready,’’ Thibodeau said. “Whatever we ask of him — to start or come off the bench or be situational. That’s the great value in Taj. Mitch is really coming on, so we’re very pleased with his progress.”
The Knicks didn’t know what to expect as Robinson entered training camp unable to participate in practice despite his foot surgery being in late March. Robinson was in a walking boot in late July, which sent off alarm bells.
Gibson admitted this week Robinson indeed had “a setback’’ in his long road back, but it’s unknown if he broke his foot again. (The Knicks never gave any health updates regarding Robinson since announcing his surgery).
Robinson is in the final year of his contract and the Knicks could give him an extension if they are comfortable with his health and performance.
Noel, who had a bust-out season as a shot-blocker in his contract year, now is laboring. Noel also had a setback, according to Thibodeau, before the preseason opener.
“He did a little more moving around but [is] doubtful,’’ Thibodeau said. “Today he moved a little forward. He actually was pretty close. It’s basically soreness. He’ll work his way through it. He’s just not comfortable yet.’’
Thibodeau still won’t name captains, though called Julius Randle “the leader.’’
“I want it to happen organically,’’ Thibodeau said. “We have good veterans who have done a great job and I lean on them. Obviously, Julius is the leader, but Derrick [Rose], Kemba [Walker]. It’s top of the line there and you throw in Alec Burks.’’
Walker declined to say how many parts of back-to-back sets he might sit out. The Knicks have 11 back-to-back sets.
“I’m feeling really good — I’ve been available, I’ve been to all the practices and all the preseason games except they rested me for the one,’’ Walker said. “As far as back-to-backs, we’ll take it game by game, depending on how I’m feeling. It’s not like I’m not playing back-to-backs.
“That’s not my thought process. My thought process is to be available when I can. I’m doing everything in my power to stay healthy and do what I can to be on the court because that’s where I want to be.’’