Six months after fracturing a small bone in his right foot, Mitchell Robinson’s recovery timeline remains indefinite and he still hasn’t progressed to contact practice or sprinting.
“I’m doing like a light jog,” he said. “It ain’t super light, but it ain’t super fast, either. It’s right in between.”
It has been a confusing and mysterious rehab. In mid-May, coach Tom Thibodeau declared Robinson had already begun individual workouts on the court. He hinted that 3-on-3s and 5-on-5s weren’t too far behind, while never ruling out Robinson’s return in the playoffs.
In the past, NBA teams issued a 6-to-8 week recovery following surgery for the same injury as Robinson’s (a fractured fifth metatarsal). Kevin Durant returned after 47 days in 2014, for instance. Ben Simmons, on the other hand, missed his entire rookie season because the fracture never fully healed after surgery.
Robinson hasn’t progressed much, if at all, from Thibodeau’s update in mid-May. The 23-year-old declined to answer whether the recovery took longer than anticipated.
“Really, that’s a question you got to ask coach,” said Robinson, who was spotted in social media photos over the summer wearing a walking boot.
Thibodeau said there had been no setbacks but was otherwise cryptic about the slow pace of rehab.
“As you go, you want to see where he is,” he said.
Neither Thibodeau nor Robinson would commit to the center’s return by the season opener in three weeks against the Celtics.
“There’s really no timetable,” Thibodeau said. “When he’s ready he’s ready. And so we talk to the medical people every day, talk to Mitch to see how he’s doing and again I think it’s important for us to have big picture in mind with him.”
Robinson, who is entering a contract season, was much more eager to discuss his offseason strength training. He noticeably added weight and muscle, which Robinson proudly displayed by flexing both biceps in Thursday’s post-practice media session.
“I look great,” he said.
Strength is a positive for a player who operates in the paint and entered the league at seven feet tall and just 223 pounds. But there’s also the danger of added pressure on a recovering fractured foot.
“I feel a whole lot stronger, my body feels better,” Robinson said. “I’m just going to see how it goes. I want somebody to hit me in the chest. I want to see how it feels.”
Thibodeau is happy with the results. Robinson said about two weeks ago he weighed 280 pounds, considerably heavier than his rookie weight.
“Physically I think he’s matured also. He’s not a young kid anymore. He looks great,” the coach said. “With any center, you have to have that awareness of the weight. I also think that once he gets to playing, some of that’s going to come off. He’s definitely a lot stronger than he was.”
With Robinson’s status in doubt, the Knicks will turn to the center rotation of Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson. It was effective last season, but Robinson still carries the highest upside as a rim protector and alley-oop/putback finisher.
The 2018 second-round pick is eligible for an extension, but the Knicks are wisely waiting for evidence on the court. It’s still unclear when that will happen.
“We love Mitchell Robinson and we look forward to seeing him play,” team president Leon Rose said.