Getting Mitch Back on Track

Jonathan Macri

Coming into this season, it would have been polite to call the Knicks a collection of curiosities.

Doubt? Yes, there was quite a bit of that floating around. Outright dismissal of their chances? Some analysts weren't bashful.

But there was one exception to everyone's critiques - one young Knicks who even the most fervent LOL Knicksers were confident would, at the very least, give casual fans a reason to be excited.

Mitchell Robinson, of course, is just as much of a lightning rod for basketball conversation now as he was before the season started. You earn that designation when you put up numbers that literally no player in the history of the league has sported before he came along.

Over 70 percent made field goals in over 100 career games? No other player comes close. Opponents' hitting nearly nine percent fewer shots at the rim when he's in the game? It's in the 97th percentile league-wide, according to Cleaning the Glass. Over 220 blocks and 80 steals in 103 or fewer games? He's the only player who's ever done that - and in barely more than 20 minutes a night.

And it's all contributed to winning basketball, as shown by his plus 6.5 net rating (according to Cleaning the Glass, which filters out garbage time).

And yet, there is concern. That's because when Mitch isn't Mitch, it's obvious to even the most casual observer. And Mitch hasn't been Mitch for a few games now.

Coach Miller was asked about it before Thursday's game vs Phoenix, but he didn't sound too concerned:

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It's a good sign.

As the team gets closer and closer to the trade deadline, no one is certain about how safe the jobs of the decision makers for this team actually are. There's a fear that a win-now move could marginalize one or more of the young players, Mitch included.

For right now though, another opportunity to work out the kinks is probably what he needs more than anything else. Since his 22-point outing against Portland, Robinson has averaged just 7.4 points, 4.1 boards and one block over his last seven games.

Maybe facing off against his draft classmate Deandre Ayton can help him get back to the norm. That would be great for Knicks fans, as Mitchell Robinson's "normal" is something everyone can agree is more than acceptable.

Notes: Frank Ntilikina and Marcus Morris are both active for tonight's game. Morris last played against the Clippers on January 5; Frank last saw action against the Pelicans on January 10. Dennis Smith Jr. remains out. Reggie Bullock will also miss tonight with a sore neck.

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