LAS VEGAS — Mitchell Robinson hadn’t played organized basketball in more than a year, but David Fizdale said the rookie big man has shown no rust in summer league practices.
Robinson has shown promise, according to Fizdale.
“Man, is he athletic,” Fizdale said. “Kid’s got pretty good feel for the game. He’s in great shape. And athletically, he’s a freak. He’s in the one percentile of high flyers and runners. It’s just not many guys that’s that athletic.”
The Knicks selected Robinson with the 36th pick in last month’s draft. He had been considered a first-round talent, but the 7-1 Robinson dropped out of Western Kentucky, never played a game there, and his stock dropped.
Robinson, 20, said he spent a lot of time training for the NBA, so he’s not surprised with how he’s done. But he did miss playing 5-on-5.
“Yes, sir,” Robinson said. “Sitting out the whole year was tough for half the year. But then time got close and my mind started getting right, like ‘I’m about to start playing again, so keep working hard.’
“I trained for this the whole year, so I feel I’m pretty sure I can jump in and still be with where everybody else is at.”
Fizdale has compared Robinson to rim-runner and shot blocker Clint Capela. Maybe he could become that down the line. Although the Knicks are short on big men now, there’s still a long way to go before Robinson proves he can be in the regular rotation.
“I want to encourage him to be great at what he’s good at right now,” Fizdale said. “Can we just get him a game? His game right now is running and jumping. So anything that has to do with that, how good can I make him at that first?”
Robinson believes he can “put up good numbers.” But Fizdale acknowledged he’s still raw, and called him “a fun project.”
“We’re going to be working on jump hooks, post-up game,” Fizdale said. “We’re going to always build that incrementally. But how can we get him a confidence that ‘I can go play in the NBA game right now’ because I can hang my hat on this? Right now it’s his athleticism.
“Getting him to run the floor every time. Getting him to screen at the right angle and to get to the rim with speed every single time. Getting him to be in a stance on every pick-and-roll. Being able to switch on that pick-and-roll and protect the rim. Those little areas, can we make him great at that? And then jump hook, 15-footer, all of that stuff will be built behind that.”
Knox signs. First-round pick Kevin Knox signed his rookie contract Thursday. The No. 9 pick accepted a four-year deal, but only the first two years for roughly $8.1 million are guaranteed according to the rookie scale. The next two years are team options.