Mitchell Robinson found out about the Knicks’ latest roster move Thursday night while perusing social media, and he immediately was excited.
The Knicks are happy to have Taj Gibson back in the fold for front-court depth and another veteran presence, but none more than Robinson, who utilized the veteran big man as a mentor on and off the court when they were teammates last season.
“It’s just amazing. I [saw] it on Instagram. I was like: ‘we got TG back!’” Robinson said on a Zoom call before Friday’s game against Oklahoma City. “That’s my guy. Can’t wait to see him come back.
“I learned a lot from Taj last year. I’m pretty sure he’s [been] working over the summer. I can’t wait to have him come in and show me some new [things] so I can learn and grow as a player.”
The 6-foot-9 Gibson signed Thursday night after the team had declined his $10 million option in November, although he was not with the Knicks for their game against the Thunder due to COVID-19 protocols. The Knicks also waived forward Omari Spellman to create the roster spot.
The 22-year-old Robinson, who set an NBA record with a .742 field-goal percentage last season, logged a career-high 41 minutes in Wednesday’s comeback win over Utah – the Knicks’ fifth win in six games.
The 7-foot center mostly has stayed out foul trouble so far during his third NBA campaign, but the Knicks still have been thin up front in recent games with injuries to backup center Nerlens Noel, Spellman and rookie forward Obi Toppin.
The 34-year-old Gibson will provide another big body, as well as familiarity with head coach Tom Thibodeau, who he played for in Chicago and Minnesota.
“With Taj, he’s kind of been in [the league] for a little minute now, so he knows the ropes,” Robinson said. “Having him come back, I can learn more. I learned a lot from him last year and I’m going to continue to do that. It’s great.
“Now that we got Taj back, Nerlens he’s coming back to us one of these days…I think just having them two, it will take the load off me. I can get subbed and get some more energy inside me. So I can go out there and continue to play hard.”
Robinson committed only two personal fouls over his heavy workload Wednesday against the Jazz. He didn’t foul out – or get whistled for more than four fouls – in any of his first eight appearances, all starts.
“I feel it’s the coaches,” Robinson said. “Who wants to really sit out so much? I’m trying to find a way to limit the fouls. I only had two last game. I was very proud of myself. I’m going to try to continue to work and not get fouls.”
Second-year guard RJ Barrett also endorsed Gibson’s return, calling him “a great teammate and a great guy to be around.”
“He brings that energy every single day,’’ Barrett said. “He’s always coaching us, telling us to do the right thing. So I’m very happy and excited to have him back.”
The Knicks began play Friday on a three-game winning streak with a 5-3 record for the season after opening last year with a 4-18 mark, resulting in the firing of coach David Fizdale.
“I think it’s been great, very important,” Barrett said of the Knicks’ strong start. “It shows us that our work is paying off and our work is good, so we’ve got to continue to do what we’re doing and continue to get better each and every day and just trust the process.”