Robinson’s Potential On Display Against Rivals

Rasheed Wallace smiled widely when he talked about his prized pupil, rookie Mitchell Robinson.

“Mitch is gonna be just fine,” he told me before the game.

I ran into Sheed in the hallway outside the Knicks locker room after he ran Robinson through a pregame workout that involved a great deal of instruction and several F-bombs. (“That’s natural,” he said. “It’s just natural for me to be loud and just help the young guys out and correct stuff.”)

What people don’t know is Sheed has known Robinson for several years. What we’re also learning is Knicks GM Scott Perry had inside information that led to the Knicks going all-in with the 36th pick in the draft on the mystery big man who didn’t play college ball.

Robinson was trained by former NBA all-star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who also spent some time around the Knicks over the last year. He is also the godson to Shammond Williams, who was teammates with Wallace at North Carolina in the late 1990s and is also cousins with Kevin Garnett (who, by the way, Robinson idolizes).

The athletic 7-footer has a pedigree that you can’t ignore. And against the Nets he showed off a potential you can’t deny.

“Real positive upside,” Sheed said. “Mitch is very talented. He’s athletic as hell. He has a lot to learn because he hasn’t played ball in a while, especially competitive basketball on this level. So, of course, you have to give him a curve. But once Mitch gets the hang of this game and knows the ins and outs of how to be an NBA player, Mitch is gonna be fine.”

Wearing a headband that was a Sheed trademark, Robinson had 11 points, 3 rebounds, an assist, steal and block in 15 minutes of action in the win. The most dramatic of his performance was early in the third quarter, when he had a steal for a windmill dunk and then caught a lob that seemed to scrape The Garden’s iconic ceiling before he slammed it home.

There were still some moments where Robinson looked like he was watching the game and a few times he was caught flat-footed. But he is literally in the embryonic stages of his basketball career. It is something to see a 20-year-old player so raw and wonder what he can become as he learns the game. Robinson said the lesson from Wallace that he tried to implement the most against the Nets was communication on defense. “He taught me to be louder with my voice,” he said.

One of the traits that Perry liked the most about Robinson was his willingness to learn and be coached, and Perry was quick to call on Sheed — who was part of that championship team in Detroit when Perry was in the front office — to help tutor him.

[Knicks-Pacers Coverage Begins At 7:30 PM Halloween Night On MSG & MSG GO.]

“Scott’s somebody I trust, we worked together in Detroit,” Wallace said. “He asked me to come through to work with the bigs and I was like, no problem.”

Sheed also has a connection to the Knicks from his one season here in 2012-13. He didn’t play much that season due to a foot injury, but he was a strong voice in the locker room and one that Mike Woodson asked to stay with the team to the end, even after his injury led to the end of his career. Sheed is expected to be around a few more days this week and sounded open to the idea of coming back when needed.

“I’m just here for a couple of days. Scott just brought me in to see what’s what,” he said. “I’m not really counting no chickens…that’s on them if they invite me back up.”

This will be routine for the Knicks as they look to build a culture of development within the franchise. There is talk that among other Knick legends — Chauncey Billups, another former Knick and member of that Pistons title team in 2004 — could be in soon to work with the guards. David Fizdale is all for it.

“They can give perspective that I can’t,” Fizdale said before the game. “I didn’t play in the league, I didn’t go through the ups and downs from a players perspective. This is almost a college team and I want to give them all the resources and education that I can possibly give, and hopefully that fast-tracks them through this year.”

Mitchell Robinson talks about how helpful Rasheed Wallace has been to him and his almost perfect game against the Nets.

GAME NOTES:

Frank Ntilikina may be a quiet kid, but he continues to make a loud statement about the starting point guard position. While his shot is still inconsistent, he is showing more and more confidence with the basketball as a scorer and a play-maker. Ntilikina had 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a blocked shot in 31:35. The best number on the stat sheet was in a column he left blank: zero turnovers. “He’s growing,” Fizdale said. “He’s starting to see the game a little better.” Fizdale did point out that Ntilikina was afforded the time to see the offense for a few games and watch film to prepare for the move to point guard, rather than being thrust into the role and forced to learn under pressure.

Tim Hardaway Jr. is averaging 25 points per game in the first two weeks of the season, but Fizdale was happier with another facet of his game that he is trying to develop. Along with 25 points on 8 of 19 shooting, Hardaway recorded 8 assists. Fizdale acknowledged Hardaway’s reputation as “a gunner” and said “I want to break that stereotype of him.”

Enes Kanter may not like this role as a reserve, but he may benefit from it. Kanter put up 15 points and 15 rebounds in 26:19 and had several dominating stretches in the game. He was a major reason why the Knicks enjoyed a +21 advantage on the boards.

–Our MSG cameras caught Kristaps Porzingis spending a minute down at the end of the bench offering Robinson some coaching. KP was very animated as he was showing Robinson something about positioning and Robinson paid close attention. After seeing this moment and KP’s “I just wanna hoop” Instagram post from over the weekend, you can see how badly he wants to get back on the court. It’s good to see him engaged in the team and the young players, which he promised he would do this season while he endured the rehab process. There still remains no timetable for his return, but he doesn’t look like someone who has any intention of sitting out the entire season. If you were him, wouldn’t you be excited about the potential of a frontcourt with himself and Robinson taking turns on lobs and blocked shots?

–On the night Klay Thompson set a new NBA record for three-pointers made in a game (14 against the Bulls), we can tell you the Knicks franchise record is for most threes made in a game is 10. But do you know who set that record?

[Knicks-Pacers Coverage Begins At 7:30 PM Halloween Night On MSG & MSG GO.]