Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
One of the best shot blockers in NBA history is impressed with Knicks rookie Mitchell Robinson.
"Blocking shots is a gift, it comes to those people who study the game. And I think Mitchell, he has that gift," Dikembe Mutombo told SNY at a fundraising event on Thursday. "He's going to be good."
Mutombo, speaking at a dinner to raise money for the cleft lip and palate charity, Smile Train, said he watched several of Robinson's games last season.
"I'm plenty impressed with him. He's very gifted, he can jump out of the building," said Mutombo, No. 2 on the career blocks list (3,289). "…. Hopefully he will block more shots than I did."
The Knicks would certainly sign up for that. Mutombo is in the Hall of Fame after playing 18 years in the league. Robinson, the No. 36 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, far exceeded expectations in his rookie season.
His 2.4 blocks per game were the most for a rookie who played at least 35 games since Tim Duncan blocked 2.5 shots per game in 1997-98.
He also led the NBA with 24 blocked 3-pointers.
"It's a different game," Mutombo said with a smile when that stat was brought up. "He's very talented. But there's nobody who can block a shot like Mr. Mutombo."
WORKING ON SHOOTING
Robinson will spend time working on his shot this summer. Ninety-eight percent of his shot attempts last season were within 5 feet of the rim. Robinson showed range in practices, knocking down 3-point shots, and he going to work on expanding his range in the offseason.
"I've been watching film to see what I can improve on and I see guys play off of me," Robinson said late last month at a meet-and-greet at the NBA Store. "When I get the ball at the free throw line they'll step way back. So I'm like, 'Okay, they think I can't shoot.' So I've got to work on that and just get better."
Knicks head coach David Fizdale credited assistant Pat Sullivan for working closely with Robinson over the course of his rookie season.
"He told me to keep a clear head. He showed me how to shoot free throws a little better. After that I got to like (68 percent after the All-Star break)," Robinson said of Sullivan. "He helped me with that a lot and I appreciate him for that. He told me to (communicate on defense), too, just as well as (DeAndre Jordan) did. I give him credit for that stuff."
IS ROBINSON READY TO START?
One of the questions surrounding Robinson for next season is if the Knicks believe he's ready to play a starting role. If the club brings in veteran free agents such as Kevin Durant, it seems logical that they would seek to add veterans around Durant. Jordan, a free agent this summer following a 10-week stint with the Knicks, is an obvious candidate.
In an interview on ESPN Radio last month, Knicks president Steve Mills said he texted Jordan about the home crowd in the final game of the season. "Just imagine what this place is going to be like when we start winning on a regular basis?" Mills texted Jordan. Reading between the lines, it seems like the Knicks are at least considering bringing Jordan back next season.
SUMMER LEAGUE, WORKOUTS WITH MARCUS CAMBY
Robinson said at the NBA Store appearance that he will play in a few Summer League games this summer. Ex-Knick Marcus Camby said on Anthony Donahue's 33rd and Seventh Podcast that he plans to work out with Robinson in the offseason. Camby said Fizdale asked him to talk to Robinson during the season and he did so several times. Knicks fans have referenced Camby when talking about Robinson's potential. Robinson, 21, said last month that he didn't watch much basketball growing up, so there isn't one ex-center that he models his game after. He did reference Joel Embiid's competitive nature when he was asked about centers he tries to emulate.
"He's a competitor. He just likes to go at it," Robinson said of the Sixers star. "He goes at everybody. He doesn't care who you are. He's going to go at you. And I really like that about him."
MUTOMBO SUPPORTS SMILE TRAIN
Smile Train is an organization dedicated to treating children with cleft, when a baby's lip or mouth does not form properly during pregnancy. The issue is a significant one for Mutombo, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"It hits home because the majority of the patients are in Africa, the kids who are suffering from cleft are African," the Hall of Fame center said. Mutombo's foundation and his hospital in Africa treats children with cleft via a surgical procedure. Mutombo has seen many children after their surgery to repair the condition.
"You see the smile of the kids, knowing that they will go back to school and nobody will bully them again and their parents will not hide them so people will not see them, it makes you cry," he said.