Mitchell Robinson’s growth can’t stop free agency rumors

MEMPHIS – It’s almost bittersweet.

Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks center who turns 24 on April 1, keeps growing while rumblings that he will seek greener pastures as an unrestricted free agents grows too.

The Post reported last month that if Robinson doesn’t have a contract extension in place by Jun. 30, he’s likely a guner.

On occasion, Robinson has tweeted his displeasure with his offensive role. Robinson’s uncle, whom Robinson follows on Twitter, also chimed in on his own social media account after the All-Star Break.

“Knicks do not believe in passing the ball to their bigs,” he tweeted. “Lowkey like the knicks but can’t wait for my nephew to get out of there.”

Robinson has stayed clear of talking about his future, about if he wants to stay, or about his current surge helping out his contract status.

“When that time comes, we’ll approach it when it comes,” Robinson said at Friday’s morning shootaround at FedEx Forum. “Everybody now is just focused on the season.”

Mitchell Robinson is averaging 8.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for the Knicks this season.
Marcio Jose Sanchez

Is it tough not to think about?

“That’s why you got an agent to handle that type of stuff for you when you focus on the court,” Robinson said.

Entering the game with the Grizzlies, Robinson faces a load in center Steve Adams, arguably the most powerful big man in the league. Adams had seven offensive rebounds in the first meeting with the Knicks on Feb. 2, a 120-108 Grizzlies win, but Robinson held his own with eight blocks.

While developing a mid-range or 3-point shooting game hasn’t happened, Robinson’s offseason work has made him a lot stronger under the rim, and all those offensive rebounds that he fights for usually result in a put-back dunk.

Adams leads the league in offensive rebounding with 4.5 per game, while Robinson is tied for third with 3.9.

“The first couple of years, I wasn’t getting too many of them,” Robinson said. “But now I’ve learned how to position myself, how to really box a guy out to go get it. I’ve come a long way.

“[The added weight] helps a lot. When you hit [your opponent]they don’t try to fight back.”

Earlier in his career, Robinson was physically no match for Adams. But the last time they faced off Robinson had 14 points and 11 rebounds.

mitchell robinson plays vs.  grizzlies
Mitchell Robinson, left, had 14 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks against the Grizzlies in February.
Brad Penner

Robinson is looking forward to the rematch. He’s also aware of the need to protect the rim from MVP candidate Ja Morant.

“I’m in better shape and now I’ve got more energy, plus the strength,” Robinson said when asked if he’s more equipped to handle Adams. “Especially against a guy like that, plus the athleticism, against a guy like that, it helps.”

Veteran center Taj Gibson, a key piece in the Knicks’ three-game winning streak after being out of the rotation when the post-All-Star Break games began, sees Robinson taking a more serious approach. Gibson said when he signed with the Knicks he wanted to be Robinson’s mentor.

“It’s just mental before anything, the way he approaches the game,” Gibson said. “The [Dallas] game he was sick. But we needed him to be the anchor down low. He stepped up even not playing with full strength. He’s been playing phenomenal.”

When asked if there’s still more to add to his repertoire, Robinson said, “I’m adding to my game right now. Offensive rebounding, defense, blocked shots, that’s already there. So just start adding now at this point.”


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