New Mentor Helps Transform Robinson’s Game

Something other than salary cap space and first round picks might have come out of the Kristaps Porzingis trade. There’s a chance the Knicks might have found a mentor for Mitchell Robinson, who might be their most intriguing prospect in the group.

The 20 year old has spent most of this season just running around the court with reckless abandon, chasing blocks and going after dunks. Too often he was getting into foul trouble and other times he would be out of position for rebounds or help defense.

But after one day of practice with DeAndre Jordan, Robinson looked like a different player against the Pistons. Robinson had an eight-minute segment of the first half in which he looked like a young DeAndre from the “Lob City” days with the Clippers. Robinson caught three alley-oops off pick-and-roll plays and was also a presence on defense and the boards, the latter of which had been an issue for him. He finished the game with his second double-double of the season (13 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes).

Jordan, 30, has so far been more than willing to teach a kid who reminds him so much of himself when he was a second-round pick in 2008. They spent time together during Monday’s practice, where Jordan did a lot of teaching by example. Robinson may be young and raw, but he doesn’t lack confidence. He seemed to enjoy the battle.

“We basically go at it at practice already,” Robinson said, “and we just met each other.”

Mitchell Robinson speaks with Rebecca Haarlow after recording 13 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks' 105-92 loss to the Pistons.

David Fizdale sees the value in Jordan’s presence, which is why there is already talk of the Knicks keeping Jordan after this season. “He jumped on it, right away,” he said. He also sees the value in Robinson’s willingness to take notes from a three-time All-NBA selection and a two-time All-Defense selection. “The kid is a sponge,” Fizdale said. “He wants to learn.”

David Fizdale holds his post-game press conference after the Knicks' 105-92 loss to the Pistons at The Garden.

That’s what this season is still about.


Dennis Smith Jr. had 25 points and 6 assists and looked a lot more comfortable in his second game, with a practice under his belt, than he did in Sunday’s debut. Smith still had issues on defense, which is in his scouting report, and did not shoot the ball well from three (2 for 9). But what he does better than any Knicks guard is get into the paint. Out of his 11 field goals made, 8 of them were at the rim.

– The Knicks have said that they’d like to see Smith join in the backcourt with his 2017 draft classmate Frank Ntilikina at some point. There is a curiosity about whether they could complement each other’s games. But Ntilikina remains out with a sore groin and Fizdale suggested that we may not see him, or Emmanuel Mudiay (shoulder), until after the All-Star break. Fizdale said if either player is ready before the break, which comes next week, “we’ll probably just wait it out and not even risk it. Let them get another week of rest.”

– The Knicks failed to score 100 points for a seventh straight game. They shot 40% from the field and made nine of 33 from the three-point line. They were five for 23 from three in the second half and had some open looks in the fourth quarter that, as Fizdale said, “missed bad.” The Knicks are 27th in the NBA in three-point shooting (33.6%) and are the worst shooting team in the NBA (43%). That can put a lot of pressure on a defense.

– The loss extended the Knicks’ franchise-worst home losing streak to 15 games. That’s the the fourth-longest home losing streak in NBA history. There are four teams tied with 16 straight, the most recent being the Nets in 2016-17. The 76ers lost 18 straight in 2013-14. The NBA record for consecutive home losses is 19, set by the Dallas Mavericks in 1993-94. The next Knicks home game is Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors.