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Mitchell Robinson calls message of his deleted tweet 'a personal thing'

The Knicks' Mitchell Robinson dunks during the second

The Knicks' Mitchell Robinson dunks during the second half against the Celtics on Jan. 17, 2021 in Boston. Credit: AP/Michael Dwyer

Mitchell Robinson has messaged on social media before about a belief in his ability to expand his offensive arsenal, including videos of himself on a practice court handling the ball and, most often, tossing in three-point field goals.

But when he tweeted what seemed like a similar thought right after Tuesday’s loss in Utah — "One day they’ll let me play, 100" — he almost immediately deleted it. And when he finally addressed the tweet Friday morning, he offered an odd explanation, denying he was asking for a bigger role in the Knicks’ offense.

"It was like a personal thing," Robinson said after the Knicks’ morning workout before facing the Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. "So I really — at the same time, I don’t even want to talk about that. It’s just something that’s going on in my life. And I’ll leave that alone."

The usually amiable 7-footer was unavailable to speak Thursday and limited his answers on the subject Friday.

Though Robinson didn’t explain his explanation, it is understandable if he is frustrated.

He has improved his defense this season under coach Tom Thibodeau, and the foul trouble that plagued him in his first two seasons has become almost a non-factor. He hasn’t fouled out in the first 20 games.

But his offense has remained as it was, limited to slamming in lobs at the rim or following missed shots. That formula was good enough to convert at 74.2% last season, setting an NBA record. But with 755 career field-goal attempts, he had yet to attempt a three-pointer. This season, he hasn’t tried a shot outside of 10 feet.

While traditional post-up big men might be out of style in today’s game, Robinson has faced players who have managed to flourish, some at his expense. Rudy Gobert had 18 points, 19 rebounds and four blocked shots in the Jazz’s win over the Knicks on Tuesday. On Friday, Robinson faced Andre Drummond, who averaged 25.5 points and 20.0 rebounds in Cleveland’s first two meetings with the Knicks this season. Drummond did have 15 rebounds Friday, but was held to four points on 2-for-7 shooting.

Could that sort of production be close to Robinson’s potential, even without the expanded arsenal of weapons but more opportunity?

"I know I can defend. I don’t really compare myself to other players," he said. "I mean, I’m worried about our team. Other players, they can talk about whatever they want to talk about. I’m just talking about us as Knicks.

"I kind of like my role. We’re winning games, why change it? Know what I mean? Anything that I could do to help win more would be great, but I just want to keep it consistent. We’re doing pretty good right now, so why change?"

Backup Nerlens Noel came into the league with the sort of expectations Robinson is trying to live up to, although Noel did it as a lottery pick while Robinson was a second-round choice.

"Our situations were so different coming in, so I mostly talk to him about what we need to do now on a day-to-day basis," Noel said. "Make sure you’re prepared, make sure you’re taking care of business.

"Mentality is everything. You come into this thing with the right mentality of getting after it and staying focused, and everything takes care of itself. I’ve seen Mitch has really grown since the first day I saw him walking in the building. Even now, [there] has been tremendous growth. Every day, just being locked in, and following suit, just making sure your habits and everything is following, I think he’s done a tremendous job."

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