Tom Thibodeau’s next Knicks change could be Nerlens Noel over Mitchell Robinson

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SAN ANTONIO – When the Knicks were at their best final season in the second half, Nerlens Noel was the starting center and Mitchell Robinson was rehabilitating a broken leg.

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After 23 games, it appears Tom Thibodeau is considering bringing Noel back to the starting lineup and demoting Robinson, who struggles with conditioning after adding muscle weight during his long leg rehab. are.

Noel was seen in the starter’s blue jersey during Tuesday morning’s shoot at the AT&T Center before facing the Spurs.


Thibodeau did not confirm landing on Noel as the second major change after wiping out “The Kemba Walker Era” to start Alec Burks.

But Robinson looked to be moving on to a new role from Paine as the Knicks (11-12) were on a three-game losing streak. Robinson is seeking a contract extension as he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

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“We’ll figure it out,” Robinson said as he looked fast on the second unit. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Thibodeau refused to give any heads-up to Spurs coach Greg Popovich.

“Still considering,” he said. “Just thinking of everything.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau could make the Nerlens Noel (L) start over Mitchell Robinson (R) against Spurs on Tuesday.
NBAE via Getty Images

Thibodeau has spoken out about Robinson’s conditioning issues throughout the season because the 7-footer doesn’t look as playful as his first three seasons, perhaps because of the muscle gains. Robinson said he’s starting to lose weight—from 280 he’s now at 265.

“I wish I could jump back into it and be who I was before the injury,” Robinson said on Tuesday. “It’s great. I’m going to go to work and get back on my own.”

Robinson said “stamina” is an issue. “I’m getting tired really quickly,” he said. “After six, seven minutes, it’s boom, I feel gas.”

Knicks Tom Thibodeau
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau speaking to reporters at the Knicks’ practice facility on Monday.
Charles Weinzelberg/New York Post

Noel has had numerous hamstring/knee problems that have cost him a lot this season and has not been a reliable defensive specialist. Noel had the team’s worst minus -24 against Denver on Saturday.

Robinson hasn’t developed any kind of jump shot yet and his alley-oop connection hasn’t been stable over the years.

“I’m really getting it back,” Robinson said. “I’m still strong and I still want to get back on my own. I had a lot of extra weight that wasn’t muscle.”

Denver’s Nikola Jokic scored 31 points in 28 minutes to beat the Knicks in a scintillating victory for the Nuggets on Saturday.

Often, Robinson was not getting out of the 3-point line.

“Yeah, just be in better shape,” Robinson said of what didn’t go well.

Knicks Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson (l.) defends Nikola Jokic (r.) during the Knicks’ defeat to the Nuggets on December 4, 2021.

Thibodeau said Robinson’s long absence made an impact. He was lost in March.

“The conditioning aspect is something he’s still working on,” Thibodeau said. “There have been some real good moments and moments that have not been as good as we would like, but the same can be said for our entire team. Some are playing great and some are playing in which we didn’t play well. We have to develop consistency and we have to focus on improvement.

“The fact of the matter is, he was out for so long. He missed the whole summer, missed basically all the fall, cleaned up just before we started our training camp and still didn’t get to practice all the way. could, so it’s been a work in process.”


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