The Knicks may use some small-ball lineups while center Mitchell Robinson is sidelined with a fractured hand, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. The team is planning a group effort to replace Robinson, who anchors the defense with 1.5 blocks, 1.2 steals, and 8.4 rebounds per game. Nerlens Noel will likely become the starter, with Taj Gibson seeing increased playing time, but coach Tom Thibodeau is willing to use Julius Randle in the middle beside Kevin Knox or Obi Toppin.
“It’s always part of what we can do,” Thibodeau said. “I think in looking at what Mitch provided and what Nerlens provided, I thought that was a strength, and then maybe what Taj provides, as well. But I think Obi is playing at a high level right now, and that second group has a lot of speed and they can get up and run the floor.”
There’s more on the Knicks:
- Noel was the team’s starting center during the preseason while Robinson was learning Thibodeau’s system, and the coach is confident he can slide back into that role, Popper adds in a separate story. “Any time a player like Mitch goes down, you don’t replace him individually,” Thibodeau said. “You have to do it collectively. And that’s where we feel good about our team. I think Taj, going in, his experience will help. Nerlens has done a terrific job for us. We want to make sure we maintain the defensive component of our team and I think those two guys can do that.”
- The Knicks have plenty of assets on hand and the new front office is willing to package several of them in return for a star player, sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. One possible target is Wizards guard Bradley Beal if he changes his mind about wanting to stay in Washington. An unidentified general manager tells Bondy it would likely take three first-round picks, two pick swaps, a young player and an expiring contract to land Beal. Rockets guard Victor Oladipo and Bulls guard Zach LaVine have also been mentioned as possibilities if the Knicks don’t want to pay that price.
- John Wall keeps close tabs on fellow Kentucky players and is impressed by the progress of Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. “He’s someone I respect,’’ Wall said. “I’m very happy for him to get the opportunity. I’m glad he’s showing people he’s more than just a shooter. That’s a lot of what people thought. The way he runs the point-guard position has been good. It’s going to be good to go against him.”