From Peter Botte:
Nerlens Noel, part of the Knicks’ ever-expanding Kentucky connection, started the first two preseason games at center before sitting out the next two with a sore left knee.
Mitchell Robinson said earlier in camp that he doesn’t mind coming off the bench, but the third-year big man moved into the starting lineup in Noel’s absence the past two games and was particularly “terrific,” according to coach Tom Thibodeau, in Friday’s 36-point rout of the Cavaliers at the Garden.
The 22-year-old Robinson scored eight points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked four shots without committing a personal foul, and the Knicks were a whopping plus-46 in the 27 minutes he was on the floor.
“He was terrific. The same thing can be said for him about the way he’s been practicing and working and getting there early and staying late, practicing well, concentrating,” Thibodeau said after the game. “I thought he played as hard as he could.
“He was on the floor, he was everywhere. He was on the rim, knocking shots away, rebounding the ball, sprinting into screens, putting pressure on the rim. Did a ton of good things. We’ll take a look at the film and keep pushing him to get better.”
On Dec. 1, Thibodeau said Robinson “has a long way to go,” adding the Knicks were “very fortunate to have Noel” as a complement and mentor.
Robinson has come off the bench in 101 of his 127 career games, including only six starts last season.
Still, the 7-footer set an NBA record in 2019-20 with a .742 field goal percentage, and he’s finished second and seventh in the league in blocked shots in his first two seasons, respectively.
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