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Mitchell Robinson makes Knicks plea to return from injury

Mitchell Robinson may be back Sunday, but not as a starter.

The Knicks center has been bumped up to questionable for the rematch against the 76ers at the Garden following his return to practice Friday and Saturday.

Robinson has missed the past 15 games with a broken right hand. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said Robinson has been cleared for contact, but he was waiting to see how the center responded to Saturday’s scrimmage.

After practice, Robinson tweeted, “I feel tooooooo goooooddddd bro I’m ready.”

If the 22-year-old Robinson is made available for Sunday’s game, Thibodeau admitted it might take a few games before he starts, as he comes back from a tricky broken fourth metacarpal bone in his hand.

Nerlens Noel, a fellow shot-blocking maven, has started in Robinson’s stead. It’s unclear if Robinson will be on a minutes restriction.

“I want to see how that goes,” Thibodeau said. “There’s great versatility there. Eventually, he’ll get back to starting. Whether that happens right away or down the road … I’m comfortable with both guys in that role. And I’m really comfortable with Taj [Gibson] as well. That gives us great depth at that position.”

Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson
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Robinson was not made available to the media after practice.

“He’s getting close,” Thibodeau said. “Been cleared. He’s done more. So we want to see how he responds after the contact, The conditioning piece is important, But he’s been cleared from a physical standpoint.”

Noel, signed as a free agent in November on a one-year deal, has held up well on defense, but isn’t as big a threat to score on put-backs or alley-oop dunks. After experiencing early-season knee soreness, Noel has stayed healthy. He played in all 15 games Robinson missed and averaged 29 minutes, 2.1 blocks, 6.9 rebounds and 6.1 points.

The Noel-Gibson center tandem didn’t mount enough points, but with Robinson back, the need to trade for Cavaliers center Andre Drummond is lessened.

“[Robinson] catches so many lobs, rebounds and blocks so many shots,’’ RJ Barrett said. “He’s very athletic and makes some crazy plays out there. We miss his presence down there when we go in there and really want to finish over him. We definitely miss that.’’

Gibson, who was moved to backup center, said Robinson has been engaged even while hurt, listening to practice sermons on the court with his cast on. Gibson became Robinson’s mentor last season.

“He’s been coming in every day watching film, staying locked in,’’ Gibson said. “Every day he’s on the court with us even with his cast on still running the plays with us. It’s good to have him back especially practice going up and down.’’

Before breaking his hand against Julius Randle’s elbow on Feb. 6 in Washington, Robinson was averaging 8.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals.

“He looked good, man,’’ Barrett said. “Just having him on the court after he went through, it lifts everyone’s spirit up. I hope to have him back real soon.”

A hand specialist told The Post that Robinson’s situation, as a shot blocker, can be risky because of the potential impact on the hand.

Dr. Chirag Shah, a hand specialist at Northwestern, said an NFL lineman could return in four weeks just by putting on a cast. An NBA player can’t function that way.

“As a basketball player he needs the fingers and motion of his hand,’’ Shah said. “It’s harder to protect. Being conservative with that is the main thing here. The one thing you could do if you get him back too early is you can add insult to injury. It’s about: Is the fracture healing and stable? When is the fracture stable enough to withstand any potential impact?”

After a 1-3 road trip following the All-Star break, the point-guard-ravaged Knicks survived against the Magic, 94-93, Thursday.

They haven’t broken the 100-point mark in two straight games and they are the NBA’s lowest scoring team. They lost to the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers 99-96 Tuesday.

“It’s a great test for us,’’ Barrett said.


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