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What Will Knicks Do With Jericho Sims When Mitchell Robinson Heals?

Jericho Sims has provided vital minutes in the interior for the New York Knicks, but are his days in the rotation numbered?

No good deed goes unpunished on the New York Knicks.

At the start of this month, center Jericho Sims was the Knicks' 12th man, part of the de facto clean-up crew in dire situations. He was nonetheless a natural choice to take on extended responsibilities when Mitchell Robinson sustained a knee injury in the Nov. 4 win in Philadelphia, even with the dreaded "DNP-CD" showing up in his box score on five occasions in the first seven games. 

Over the past few games, Sims has turned his 12 into a nine. earning the trust of head coach Tom Thibodeau as he opted to turn to a nine-man rotation. 

Far and away the first contingency option in terms of interior depth (backing up Isaiah Hartenstein), Sims still had to earn his role. That's the environment in which a second-round draft choice on a two-way deal traverses, especially in a system overseen by Thibodeau, where younger players have to go above and beyond for the honor of giving veterans an extended rest ... and, sometimes, even that's not enough.

Sims has proven himself worthy and then some: even with Robinson out, the Knicks (8-8) still rank third in the NBA in rebounding (46.5) thanks in part to Sims' most recent efforts. The past four games, including the first three legs of a five-game Western Conference tour, have been a particularly flashy showcase: playing at least 18 minutes each night (doing so in only 16 of 41 appearances in his rookie year), Sims has pulled in 9.3 rebounds a night to go with 8.3 points. 

That brief but fruitful stretch includes a pair of double-doubles, which included setting career-bests in scoring (11) and offensive rebounds (8, part of 13 total on the night) in Tuesday's 118-111 win over the Utah Jazz.

Thibodeau sounded most impressed with Sims' contributions away from the box score.

"The thing I like about him is the pressure he puts on the rim. That forces the defense to collapse, and opens up other things for us," Thibodeau said of Sims following a win in Denver on Wednesday. "He gets out his screens pretty quickly. He plays above the rim, and I like that part of him.”

To Thibodeau's point, the Knicks are averaging 115 points in their last four. His Wednesday counterpart, Nuggets head coach Mike Malone, likewise had kind words for Sims, referring to him as "one of the most athletic bigs in the NBA."

This being Knicks basketball, an uncomfortable situation in the midst of success looms on the horizon: Robinson's return is relatively imminent, as he's listed as questionable (along with Cam Reddish) on the team's injury report for their penultimate game of the Western swing on Sunday in Phoenix (3:30 p.m. ET, MSG). The Knicks do get a bit of a Thanksgiving vacation, off until Friday after the road trip ends on Monday in Oklahoma City. Any drastic rotation decisions would probably be made for the return to Madison Square Garden against Portland. 

Sims has undoubtedly proven himself worthy of extended time, but it's worth wondering what will happen to his minutes once Robinson returns. One could make the case for a three-man rotation at center, but that hasn't been the way Thibodeau has operated. Many fans will note it's hard enough convincing him to put Julius Randle and Obi Toppin on the floor at the same time. 

The Knicks might be financially obligated to push the Robinson/Hartenstein combo. All three got new contracts from the Knicks over the summer, the two veterans currently standing as a combined cap hit of nearly $25 million on the table. Sims, on the other hand, is making just over $1 million.

Could Sims potentially be traded? That might be worth calling contenders desperate for rebounding depth like Dallas or the Los Angeles Clippers (the latter of whom are newly relieved of Hartenstein's services). The Knicks have shown little, if any, hesitation to stock their draft cabinet fully aware that not all of them will be used. Previous bartering was used to successfully build a Jalen Brunson budget before the yields were dangled in front of Utah in an ultimately futile bid for Donovan Mitchell. 

One thing's for sure: Sims is leaving an impression as he takes advantage of what's likely been his best professional opportunity to date.

“I think he earned his time last year, played really well the second half of last season,” Thibodeau said. “Came in, spent a lot of time here this summer, ready to go. We threw him in in the Minnesota game; played terrific. So, getting a lot better each and every day. Puts a lot into it. High energy. Very athletic. So, I think he’ll continue to grow.”

“I love playing with Jericho,” teammate and fellow reserve Immanuel Quickley added. “He brings a different dimension that I think a lot of players in the league. He's really athletic. He’s really good on defense, offensive rebounds. He brings a really good dynamic to this team.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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