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Knicks lose Mitchell Robinson for postseason due to ankle injury
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Knicks lose Mitchell Robinson for postseason due to ankle injury

Another injury has bitten the New York Knicks.

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

The longtime Knicks center, who hobbled during Game 1 of New York’s second-round series against the Indiana Pacers in a 121-117 win, underwent surgery on the same ankle in early December. He has been in and out of the lineup since then, most recently suffering a sprain 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 revealed a stress injury, a league source said. The source said the plan at this point is to avoid surgery and instead rehabilitate the injury.

Robinson’s absence puts more pressure on the group’s starting center, Isaiah Hartenstein, who stepped into the first unit when Robinson was first injured in December. Precious Achiuwa, who filled in during previous Robinson injuries, will again step in as the backup center.

Robinson was in the midst of a career season before suffering his first ankle injury over the winter, calling for his first all-defensive outing as he led the NBA in every offensive and rebounding statistic imaginable. His dominance in the paint became part of the Knicks’ identity. Dribblers couldn’t get to the rim, either because he deflected shots or shut down pick-and-rolls, and they couldn’t keep him off the boards.

The Knicks are the best offensive team in the NBA. With Robinson that goes to another level.

Now an unfortunate trend is delivering a final blow.

Robinson’s ankle injuries continue to crop up. He first hurt his left ankle on December 8 in a game against the Boston Celtics. During the break he underwent X-rays and the doctors cleared him to return. But he played only the first four minutes of the third quarter, battling obvious discomfort, before leaving for good. A few days later he had surgery.

The concern when he returned on March 27 was his conditioning. Robinson couldn’t run and jump for most of the time he was out, so the Knicks held him back to a strict minutes restriction through his first eight games. In the ninth, the penultimate game of the regular season, he ran 25 minutes, the most he had played in more than four months at the time.

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

He returned for the first game of the playoffs and played for 31 minutes in Game 1, but at some point during Game 3 he reinjured the ankle. It’s unclear if he suffered the injury on a play when Philadelphia center Joel Embiid grabbed Robinson’s leg and pulled 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 ended the series one game later. Over the past few games, Robinson has worked hard and favored his left side.

Stress injuries are generally the result of overload.

Robinson sent two tweets after announcing his season-ending injury.

“This is so fucking like I don’t even know what to say right now!” the first read.

A sequel followed a little later.

“This isn’t over yet!” read the tweet. “I WILL SEEK REVENGE.”

He deleted the second message not long after sending it.

Robinson isn’t the first Knicks player to leave the lineup.

All-Star power forward Julius Randle dislocated his shoulder in late January and hasn’t played since. He tried to repair 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 inadvertently rolled over Bogdanović’s leg while chasing a loose ball. The 35-year-old attacker underwent season-ending surgery last week.

The Knicks’ rotation has already been disrupted.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau used just 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 likely slide into the backup center spot. If Thibodeau continues with an eight-man rotation, 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 averaged 2.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 19.1 minutes during the postseason.

(Top photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)