UPDATE: The New York Knicks confirmed on Monday, Dec. 11, that Mitchell Robinson will undergo left ankle surgery and miss the next 8-10 weeks when he will be re-evaluated.
Mitchell Robinson will have left ankle surgery this week at the Hospital for Special Surgery. He will be re-evaluated in 8-10 weeks.— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) December 11, 2023
After losing back-to-back games to the Milwaukee Bucks (15-7) and the Boston Celtics (16-5) last week, the New York Knicks (12-9) will kick off the way by trying to forget about those late IST woes by hosting the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden before embarking on another mammoth task that will see them play five games on the road.
The Knicks won’t return to New York until Dec. 20 when they’ll play the Nets at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The return to MSG? On a back-to-back pair of games against the Bucks on Dec. 23 and then on Christmas. Jesus Christ, indeed.
Adding injury to insult (pun intended), the Knicks might be without two (or three, depending on your opinion) starters tonight as Mitchell Robinson has been ruled out for Monday’s matchup against Toronto, Jalen Brunson is listed as “questionable” to play, and Quentin Grimes as an off-the-bench player all of a sudden.
Your projected starting five, if all of those three are not roaming the hardwood in shorts at tip-off time: Immanuel Quickley, Donte DiVincenzo, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Isaiah Hartenstein.
Mitchell Robinson out with an ankle injury
The Knicks held a practice on Sunday following the loss at Boston last Friday. Back then, when Robinson was ruled out for the remainder of the game after leaving it earlier than expected, the team listed Robinson out with a “left ankle inflammation.”
Robinson suffered his injury in the first half, returned to play fewer than five minutes after the halftime break, but simply couldn’t stay on the floor and left for good.
”[I wanted to come back], I just had to warm up [but I] let it cool off (the ankle),” Robinson said on Friday. “That’s the part that f—– me up.”
Then, on Sunday, head coach Tom Thibodeau ruled Robinson out for Monday’s matchup, revealing, “He’s being examined by the medical people, so until we get the report, it’s just speculation.”
Hartenstein will replace Robinson in the starting lineup for Monday and going forward, as the extent of Robinson’s injury is still unknown pending further examination.
“I felt all along that one of our strengths was at that position,” Thibodeau said after Sunday’s practice. “The way Isaiah has been playing, he’s deserved more [time], but it’s just the way it unfolded.
“Also, Jericho [Sims], we forget he’s sitting there. And Jericho played very well for us last year. And he’s done a good job of staying ready. So it’s next man get in there. I think we have more than enough.”
Jalen Brunson “questionable,” but expected to play Monday
New York’s injury report hours before Monday’s tip-off includes Robinson and Brunson, the latter listed as “questionable” to play against the Raptors with a left ankle sprain. That feels like a simple business decision, however, as Thibs confirmed he expects his point guard to play tonight with the Knicks returning home.
“[Brunson] is good,” Thibodeau said per Fred Katz of The Athletic. “He is good to go for [Monday].”
Brunson practiced with the team on Sunday, per Barbara Barker of Newsday. Brunson (nor Robinson) were made available to the beat reporters present at the facilities on Sunday, mind you, so we haven’t heard a word about their availability coming straight out of the raw source.
The guard was left on the court for the final seconds of the already-lost game at Boston, stepped on Peyton Pritchard’s foot, and turned his ankle last Friday. Brunson left TD Garden without speaking with the media and Thibodeau said he did not have an update. Thibodeau provided his little update on Brunson’s availability on Sunday, but it’s not that he expanded that much on it.
Jalen Brunson walking without a limp at tonight's Villanova gamehttps://t.co/gM5Io6egEO— Stefan Bondy (@SbondyNBA) December 10, 2023
Brunson, Josh Hart, and fellow former Villanova player Saddiq Bey attended a game at their alma mater on Sunday, with the Knicks point guard “walking without a limp,” per Stefan Bondy of the New York Post.
Call me crazy, but I won’t believe Brunson is playing, let alone starting, until my very eyes see it.
Quentin Grimes, a starter no more
Curveball here, as Grimes isn’t really a “third starter” missing Monday’s game or whatever. Grimes, however, was finally demoted to the second unit on Friday in the IST Consolation Game against the Celtics and he put on a rather encouraging performance considering what he had done of late.
Per Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post, Thibodeau reasonably “didn’t reveal his starting lineup” for Monday amid the possible absences of Brunson and Robinson, though the beat reporter and his fellow scribes wrote that “it seems likely that [Donte]DiVincenzo will stick, at least for a while, as the starter.”
Thibs was quoted on Sunday saying, “I look at the net rating of the starters and the bench, and then I just felt like it was time [between the games against Milwaukee and Boston] to see if we could do something to get it to be better.
“I like the way the second unit played. But the challenge is it’s not about the second unit or the first unit—it’s about the group and how we make the group play well. There’s going to be mixing and matching along the way.”
Asked about his new role as a starter, DiVincenzo told reporters on Sunday that he “didn’t really feel a difference,” simply saying “I’m just a basketball player.”
Said DDV: “Put me with any lineup—I’m gonna be me. I’m gonna cut, I’m gonna shoot some shots, I’m gonna play defense. No matter what unit I’m with, that’s who I am and what I’m going to continue to be.”
According to Sanchez, “It is possible the Knicks could tweak the rotations depending on the opposing team,” mostly considering Grimes is one of the (if not the) better point-of-attack defenders in the Knicks roster.