Knicks' Tom Thibodeau says Mitchell Robinson has been cleared to play: 'He's getting close'

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Alex Smith
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Mitchell Robinson grips New York jersey
Mitchell Robinson grips New York jersey

It sounds like Mitchell Robinsons return to the floor is not too far off.

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau spoke to reporters on Saturday as his team prepares for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, explaining that Robinson has been cleared to return to action, though the Knicks will continue to take things step-by-step with him as they ramp up his conditioning level and see how his surgically repaired hand reacts to contact.

“He’s getting close,” Thibodeau said. “He’s been cleared, so he’s done more. We want to see how he responds after the contact, and the conditioning piece is important too. But he’s been cleared from a physical standpoint.”

Robinson has missed the Knicks’ last 15 games after fracturing his right hand against the Washington Wizards on Feb. 12. Prior to the injury, Robinson was having an excellent season, averaging 8.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks, anchoring Thibodeau’s defense and constantly affecting shots around the rim.

In Robinson’s absence, Nerlens Noel has stepped into the starting lineup and played well, providing much of the same defensive presence as Robinson at the center spot.

When asked about who would start when both players are healthy, Thibodeau said that Robinson would eventually be moved back in with the starting five, though it may not be right away.

“I want to see how that goes,” Thibodeau said. “There’s great versatility there, but eventually he’ll get back to starting, whether that happens right away or down the road, but I’m comfortable with both guys in that role and I’m really comfortable with Taj (Gibson) as well, so that gives us great depth at that position.”