Knicks lose Mitchell Robinson for postseason due to ankle injury

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Another injury has bitten the New York Knicks.

Mitchell Robinson has a “stress injury” to his left ankle and is out for at least six to eight weeks, the team announced Tuesday. He will not return this season.

The longtime Knicks center, who appeared hobbled during Game 1 of New York’s second-round series against the Indiana Pacers, a 121-117 victory, underwent surgery on the same ankle in early December. He has been in and out of the lineup since, most recently spraining it during a first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Robinson approached the medical team after practice Tuesday and underwent tests in the late afternoon that showed a stress injury, a league source said. The source said that the plan right now is to avoid surgery and instead to rehab the injury.

The absence of Robinson puts more pressure on the group’s starting center, Isaiah Hartenstein, who stepped into the first unit when Robinson first got hurt in December. Precious Achiuwa, who filled in during past Robinson injuries, will once again act as the backup center.

Robinson was in the midst of a career season before he suffered his first ankle injury during the winter, making a case for his first all-defensive appearance as he led the NBA in every offensive-rebounding statistic imaginable. His dominance in the paint became part of the Knicks’ identity. Dribblers could not get to the rim, whether because he was deterring shots or shutting down pick-and-rolls, and they could not keep him off the boards.

The Knicks are the NBA’s top offensive-rebounding team. With Robinson, that ratchets up to another level.

Now, an unfortunate trend lays one final blow.

Robinson’s ankle injuries continue to pop up. He first hurt his left ankle on Dec. 8 in a game against the Boston Celtics. He underwent X-rays at halftime, and doctors cleared him to return. But he played only the first four minutes of the third quarter, fighting through obvious discomfort, before exiting for good. He underwent surgery a few days later.

The concern when he returned on March 27 was his conditioning. Robinson was unable to run and jump for most of the time he was out, so the Knicks kept him on a strict minutes restriction for his first eight games back. In the ninth, the second-to-last game of the regular season, he ran for 25 minutes, the most he had played at the time in more than four months.

In the next game, Robinson had to sit out the second half because he re-aggravated the ankle. This would become a theme.

He returned for the first game of the playoffs, revving for 31 minutes in Game 1, but he reinjured the ankle once again at some point during Game 3. It is not clear if he suffered the injury on a play when Philadelphia center Joel Embiid grabbed at Robinson’s leg, pulling him down for a flagrant-1 foul.

Robinson missed the next game. He returned to play 25 minutes during a Game 5 loss to the Sixers. The Knicks closed out the series a game later. Over the past couple of contests, Robinson has labored, favoring his left side.

Stress injuries are generally because of overuse.

Robinson sent out two tweets after the announcement of his season-ending injury.

“This is so f—– up dawg like I don’t even know what to say right now !” the first one read.

A follow-up came moments later.

“This is not over !” the tweet read. “I WILL SEEK REVENGE”.

He deleted the second post not long after sending it.

Robinson is not the first Knicks player to exit the lineup.

All-Star power forward Julius Randle dislocated his shoulder at the end of January and hasn’t played since. He attempted to rehab the injury but had to undergo surgery in April.

Bojan Bogdanović hurt his left foot during the Knicks-76ers series, colliding with Philadelphia wing Nicolas Batum, who unintentionally rolled over Bogdanović’s leg while chasing a loose ball. The 35-year-old forward underwent season-ending surgery last week.

The Knicks’ rotation is already scrunched.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau used only seven players during the final two games of the 76ers series. In Game 1 against the Pacers, he used eight, adding Achiuwa to replace Bogdanović. Now, Achiuwa will presumably slide into the backup center spot. If Thibodeau continues with an eight-man rotation, then Alec Burks, who struggled after the Knicks acquired him from the Detroit Pistons midseason, becomes the most obvious option.

Robinson averaged 5.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 24.8 minutes during the regular season. He was averaging 2.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 19.1 minutes during the postseason.

(Top photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

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