TAJ MAHAL : TOYS & GAMES

Taj Gibson started all four of the Knicks’ preseason games, & he just may be tabbed to vày so — or at least retain an expanded role — in their season opener Wednesday against the Celtics.

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Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau declared Sunday that last year’s primary starter Nerlens Noel is doubtful for trò chơi 1 after sitting out the entire preseason slate with knee & hamstring issues.

“You can only base it on where we are right now, so I would say doubtful ,” Thibodeau said about the expected availability of Noel, who did not practice with the team Sunday in Tarrytown. “We feel like we have good chất lượng depth. This is part of the NBA, you have guys out, & that next guy has to be ready, he’s got to step in and get the job done.”

Rehabbed big man Mitchell Robinson played 27 minutes in Friday’s preseason finale against the Wizards in his first game kích hoạt since undergoing foot surgery in March.

Asked if the 7-footer is ready to handle a starting role or a heavier workload, Thibodeau said the Knicks have been “pleasantly surprised” at the 23-year-old center’s progress — but declined to lớn divulge his lineup or rotation plans.

Taj GibsonCharles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“He’s really done a good job, to lớn his credit, of practicing well, coming back at night & getting a second workout in,” Thibodeau said. “But he has lớn be out there taking on contact, and doing that sort of thing. That’s going lớn take some time, but we really like where he is.”

While the Knicks never have said so publicly, Gibson later revealed that Robinson suffered “a setback” at some point during his rehab from foot surgery.

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Just as he stepped in last year with Robinson sidelined, the dependable Gibson long ago established trust with Thibodeau, who he previously played for in Chicago & Minnesota.

“The moment I came into the league, Thibs has always had me in different situation,” said Gibson, who is entering his 13th NBA season. “He’s always prepared me for starting, coming off the bench. He didn’t want me lớn just be a guy floating. He always told me lớn have my head on a swivel, always be ready, always be professional và work will handle the rest.

“I’ve been playing with these guys for a while now. Whatever the game throws at me, I’m able to adjust.”

One adjustment the 36-year-old Brooklyn native is attempting lớn make in the latter stages of his career is lớn become more of a threat from 3-point range. Gibson has attempted just 133 shots from long distance, and he’s made just 21.8 percent during his career.

Taj Gibson makes a layup.NBAE via Getty Images

“Taj has always been a pretty good shooter, but it was more of a mid-range shot và he stretched it out lớn the corners,” Thibodeau said. “He’s always had good touch. Now he’s comfortable, he’s put a lot of extra work into it. And what you’re seeing — & we see him shoot threes in practice all the time — is, he’s very confident.

“I think most players, the more time you put into it, that’s where your confidence comes from. So if he’s open, let it go.”


Noel’s injury provided the Knicks an opportunity lớn take a long look at rookie big man Jericho Sims, who has made the initial 15-man roster. Thibodeau also utilized a smaller lineup in the fourth quarter of Friday’s comeback win against Washington, using Julius Randle at center with Obi Toppin at nguồn forward.

“Yeah, just to change the game. We have good depth,” Thibodeau said. “I think rim protection is important, but sometimes, you have to lớn inject more energy, speed. So, it’s something that I think the way Obi has grown, I think it will allow us to bởi that more.”