Injured Knicks star implies he’s willing to come off the bench when he returns

New York Knicks star center Mitchell Robinson is nearing a return to action, and he seems open to a bench role when he does.

Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks
Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks / Elsa/GettyImages

The New York Knicks are peaking at the right time as we approach the 2024 NBA Playoffs, with their defense taking center stage.

The return of dynamic two-way wing OG Anunoby from a right elbow injury has immediately transformed the Knicks into arguably the most stout defensive unit in the league and could soon become even more fearsome with the pending return of star center Mitchell Robinson, who turned some heads with his recent comment on an Instagram post (in a good way).

Knicks Mitchell Robinson suggests he is open to bench role

“I’ll rather come off the bench maybe I can show more,” Robinson said in response to a photo of the Knicks projected starting five once he re-enters the mix from an ankle injury that required surgery and has kept him sidelined since Dec. 8.

Robinson still has some hurdles to clear before the debate of who starts between him and Isaiah Hartenstein, who has excelled in a starting role this season. Head coach Tom Thibodeau said the former has begun running and jumping but has yet to take contact in practice, per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.

Hartenstein is averaging career-highs in points (6.9), rebounds (8.4), and steals (1.0), adding 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 61.6 percent from the floor. He ranks 10th in the NBA among centers in net rating (8.1), highlighting his impact on both ends of the floor. Moreover, his playmaking gives the Knicks an offensive element Robinson lacks while providing a similar interior defensive presence.

The play of Hartenstein during Robinson’s absence has put Thibs in a challenging yet ideal spot: having multiple rim-protecting centers at his disposal to choose from.

It will be interesting to see how things shake out when Robinson is back in the lineup, but it’s encouraging that he’s open to a bench role, considering how great of a fit Hartenstein has looked like alongside the starters. 

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