LAS VEGAS — When Mitchell Robinson took the floor for the first time in the Las Vegas Summer League Friday night, it wasn’t surprising that he piled up four blocked shots in 22 minutes. The blocks were just a continuation of what he started in his rookie season with the Knicks.
But it may have been surprising that the recipient of two of his blocked shots was Zion Williamson, the high-flying rookie for the Pelicans, who not only leaps at highlight-reel levels regularly, but does it with a 285-pound frame.
“I mean, I block shots,” Robinson said. “I blocked shots almost the whole season. So it wasn’t really nothing new. It’s a normal thing He’s a good player. He can play. I can say that. But it’s a natural thing, I just block shots.”
It is the singular skill that earned him second-team All-Rookie honors after being selected in the second round by the Knicks last season as a nearly unknown entity, having skipped out on playing a year of college ball and instead training for the draft.
And it is what has gotten him a spot on the U.S. select team, a 10-player squad that will practice with and compete against the U.S. national team during training sessions in early August. While the national team has not been announced, they will play under Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. The players on the select team also may have a chance to make the actual U.S. team.
But Robinson would like to do more than just block shots and dunk lobs and putbacks. That has worked well for him. In four Summer League games, Robinson has converted 84 percent of his shots (21-for-25) and averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds. He wants to expand his game, though.
He has talked about shooting three-pointers, something he has maintained he did in high school, and the Knicks' coaching staff wants him working on jump shots closer to the basket. He put the ball on the floor once Wednesday night from outside the arc, but was fouled immediately.
“Yeah, I got that in my bag, but I didn’t want to bring it out all the way,” Robinson said. “But I got the foul. It’s just something I’ve been working on.
“Next year I’m shooting threes. I can shoot them. I shot them in high school. They ain’t that much farther. I’m going to continue to work on it. We work on [the eight-to-10 foot shots] a lot. Me and [assistant Summer League] coach Mike Miller, we work on that a lot. We’ve been working on that for almost a whole summer, also ballhandling, just getting better.”
“He’s done a really nice job working with our assistant coaches, working on his eight-to-10-foot jump shot,” Knicks Summer League head coach Jud Buechler said. “He just really hasn’t had the opportunity. He knows what he does well and it’s screen and roll to the rim and catch lobs. He’s doing a great job of that. We’ll continue to expand his game. He hasn’t passed up any shots, but he really hasn’t had any either.”
Robinson may have caught the league by surprise last season, finishing second in blocked shots per game (2.4) behind Indiana’s Myles Turner. He said he believes that he has adjusted to the league, too.
“Yeah. 82 games, and then you come back and play Summer League, yeah, you can feel the difference,” Robinson said. “Definitely the speed of the game [feels different].
“It was a tough season last year. Hopefully, this season we can come up with a different winning streak and win more games. We can play a lot harder.”