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Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson making big strides: ‘He’s growing’


He is the longest-tenured Knick now that Kevin Knox is playing in Atlanta.

Center Mitchell Robinson, native of New Orleans, is in his fourth season. There’s always talk about expanding his offensive repertoire beyond his trademark put-back dunks, alley-oop slams and layups.

And then it happened on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, though overshadowed by the Knicks’ hideous 97-87 loss to Charlotte.

In the first half, Robinson had the ball on the left wing, and instead of handing it off as is his custom, he performed a crossover move on Hornets center Mason Plumlee and dribbled all the way to the rim for a dunk.

Granted, Plumlee is slower than a tortoise, but that was the first time Robinson executed such a drive to the bucket — and an elaborate one at that.

“Yeah, he’s growing,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said before the Knicks played host to the Pelicans on Thursday. “I think he’s become very effective with dribble-handoffs. I love the way he’s finishing. And then putting the pressure on the rim, that’s always been a gift. And you throw it near the rim, he’s got great hands. He’s gonna get it and finish. You just continue to grow. I think he’s got a lot more comfortable with the ball.’’

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson goes up for a shot against the Timberwolves.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

As the Knicks were routed by the Hornets, Robinson was the lone player who didn’t play poorly (10 points, six rebounds, 4 of 6 from the field).

After battling conditioning issues in his comeback season from hand and foot surgeries, Robinson has emerged the past month or so.

He had a setback against the Timberwolves on Tuesday, fouling out for the first time this season. Worse, his fifth foul was something out of his rookie season — committing the infraction 30 feet from the hoop.

Still, his recent progress has to give Knicks brass more motivation to look into a contract extension along the lines of the one afforded Celtics center Robert Williams in the offseason. There could be a further incentive considering Nerlens Noel’s injury-ravaged season.

Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson
Getty Images

Williams commanded a four-year, $54 million extension, though only $48 million is guaranteed.

During the offseason, The Post reported Knicks president Leon Rose was open to a Robinson contract extension but for “nothing crazy.’’

Robinson, a second-round pick of GM Scott Perry’s in 2018, is destined to become an unrestricted free agent. He’s averaging 8.2 points and 8.1 rebounds. His shooting percentage is career-high 78 percent and would be No. 1 in the league if he had enough attempts.

Sources have indicated in the past the Mavericks and his hometown Pelicans are on his radar if he doesn’t stay here. (Knox, it should be noted, was Robinson’s best friend on the club.)

Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The movement for Robinson to take more midrange jumpers — or 3-pointers — seems to have been put on the back burner. Last January, Robinson put out an Instagram a photo of his shot follow-through with the caption: “F**k it… it’s time to bring this out.”

Robinson hasn’t attempted a 3-point shot in his career, even though he launched them at Chalmette High in the New Orleans suburbs. His free-throw percentage is a sickly 55 percent.

Robinson hasn’t been seen launching 3s before games with the assistant coaches — presumably because he doesn’t really have a green light to take one like fellow big man Taj Gibson.

Last month, when asked about his 3-point future, Robinson said he first needed to get back to being the old Robinson as a master dunker/shotblocker.

And he is looking just fine.

“[He’s] more confident,’’ Julius Randle said. “Getting in better shape. Obviously being out for such a long time it takes a while. And just being aggressive. As he’s getting in better shape, he’s able to make reads out on the court. He’s able to think the game better.’’

Thibodeau is happy to see Robinson playing “really hard” on defense and becoming a physical offensive rebounder in traffic. Whether that earns him a contract extension or a trade at the Feb. 10 deadline remains to be seen.

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