Knicks’ cloudy future at center could include Mo Bamba

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From his Manhattan hospital bed at the Hospital of Special Surgery Wednesday, a masked Mitchell Robinson tweeted an uplifting video with a bold prediction.

While the Knicks were preparing for the Magic at their morning shootaround at Amway Center, the Knicks center looked in good spirits after successful surgery on his right hand.

“Thank you for all the prayers you guys have been sending me,” he said. “I really needed that. It’s my first one, ever having this done. I’ll be back soon better than ever. Go Knicks.”

Robinson broke his right hand on Julius Randle’s elbow Friday in Washington in the first half and probably will, all told, miss close to six weeks. He’ll be reevaluated after the All-Star Break around March 10th.

Robinson left the Wizards’ game in the third quarter and the Knicks won that contest in a rout. They’ve added two impressive wins, and their three-game winning streak vaulted the club to 19-20 entering Wednesday’s Magic encounter.

New starting center Nerlens Noel will have his hands full Wednesday with Orlando stud center Nikola Vucevic, averaging 23.7 points and 11.4 rebounds for the 10-18 Magic.

Taj Gibson, who played for Thibodeau in Minnesota and Chicago, is the backup center as the Knicks figure out if they want to add anyone to the roster.

Noel and Gibson likely will also confront Orlando 7-foot center Mo Bamba, who could see action Wednesday against Gibson. Bamba could be a future trade target. The New York native and fifth pick of the 2018 NBA Draft has yet to make his mark in Orlando.

Bamba is in and out of the rotation, playing in just 12 games this season. Bamba is 22 and the Knicks looked to trade up in that draft to get the former Texas Longhorns star. The Lakers also reportedly have interest.

The Knicks have had internal talks about free agent shot-blocking center Norvel Pelle, who was signed recently by the Nets but got waived this week.

The Cavaliers are desperately trying to trade center Andre Drummond as a rental. He’s a free agent this summer. The Mount Vernon resident, The Post has reported, would be amenable to coming home, but the Knicks could just as easily wait until he’s a free agent without giving up assets.

If the Knicks signed a player, they’d have to cut someone to make room. The top two candidates to get released would be PG Jared Harper, who is on a two-way contract and hurt his ankle last week in the G League, and second-round pick Ignas Brazdeikis, also in the G League.

Noel, and the rest of the team, has been in contact with Robinson.

“We all got a group text,’’ Noel said. “We all reached out to him. I told him prayers up. Everyone is so close on this team. Everyone’s reaching out to each other. I’ll be there for him throughout the process. I definitely want him to come back strong. He’s in good spirits for sure. He had us laughing in that group text.’’

All has not been gloom and doom after losing their shotblocking/alley-oop menace. Noel has shined, grinding through a solid second half in Monday’s victory over Atlanta despite playing with five fouls across the final 8:40.

In preseason, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said Noel, a 2013 lottery pick, brings a lot of the same skill set as Robinson.

Mo Bamba
Mo Bamba on Feb. 28, 2020
Getty Images

Continuity has been a key to the Knicks’ relative success that finds them in sixth place in the wretched Eastern Conference, where only four clubs are over .500. The Knicks try to get to that .500 mark Wednesday.

Across the first 27 games, the Knicks had four of the same starters with Robinson manning center. In 22 of the first 27 games, they had the same five starters – all players returning from last season’s David Fizdale/Mike Miller group.

Knicks’ first-year coach Tom Thibodeau only changed up when shooting guard Reggie Bullock sat with assorted injuries.

Durability and chemistry have been keys. Now it’s being tested. And they are passing with flying colors, though their three-game winning streak deserves a caveat.

The Wizards were without their superstar Bradley Beal (rest), and Houston played without their two best players, Christian Wood and Victor Oladipo. Atlanta, which figured to be a playoff contender, has suffered a plethora of injuries and stand at 11-16.

“Chemistry is great,’’ Noel said. “I’ve been on a couple of teams. This is one of the better teams in chemistry. Every day is fun, lot of laughs in the locker room. Everyone is getting along. Game 30-ish, it’s been like this for a while and it’s only getting better. It helps the cohesiveness. At game 56 and 70, it will mean even more.”

Noel is not much of a scorer (he put up six points vs. the Hawks, 3 of 3 from the field), but he’s a shot blocker and can put pressure on the rim, as he put down a terrific alley-oop late in the Hawks win.

“Getting through a real comfort level,’’ Noel said. “The second half of last game, I got to feeling like that, making sure I’m very involved, taking it upon myself to anchor defense the whole game.”

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