Mitchell Robinson injury shatters big reason for Knicks’ success

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WASHINGTON — The president of the Knicks, Leon Rose, made a surprise visit to Washington on Friday night, taking in just his second road game, sitting courtside a few feet from senior VP William Wesley.

Rose watched his Knicks win the battle over the Wizards in a 109-91 rout, in an empty Capital One Arena, but lose the war.

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, after a 10-point, 14-rebound first half, left the game in the third quarter for X-rays that showed he had fractured his right hand.

The Knicks, as they say, can’t get a break, losing their stud defensive center for weeks. This is a team with no margin for error.

“It was probably his best first half of the year for him,’’ Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Robinson tried to block a shot, but collided with Julius Randle as he came down, his hand hitting Randle’s elbow. Robinson started shaking his hand, but stayed in the game. He looked in distress when he missed badly on two free throws — one that missed the rim entirely.

“It’s very tough, it definitely will be tough without him,’’ Randle said.

The training staff showed a video of the play to Randle in the locker room after the game and he spoke to Robinson.

“He’s in great spirits,’’ Randle said. “Extremely positive. He’s gonna be there with us every step of the way still.”

Part of the Knicks’ relative success has been continuity and staying free of injuries to key players. Now that has been shattered. They added Derrick Rose and he has acclimated easily with back-to-back 14-point games. Rose has formed an electric tandem with rookie Immanuel Quickley as the backup backcourt and already has helped rookie Obi Toppin’s game.

Now they will try to carry on with another Thibodeau favorite, Taj Gibson, who was signed last month as insurance, picking up the slack for Robinson. And that insurance may or may not pay off.

The Post has learned the Knicks considered adding former 76ers shotblocking center Norvel Pelle (a poor man’s Robinson) to the frontcourt, but Thibodeau wanted Gibson. Pelle is now with the Nets.

Gibson played 12 minutes in the fourth quarter Friday as the Knicks mounted the blowout over the Wizards, who were playing without Bradley Beal. As Rose stayed in his seat, he might have been calculating what other centers might be out there, with Nerlens Noel now the Knicks’ starter. Noel has been a solid rim protector, but he also has missed five games with a sore knee.

Thibodeau said he’s not in any rush to add a big man. He hinted the Knicks could also “go small,’’ with the obvious possibility of Randle moving to center and Toppin getting more minutes as he continues to develop.

In his lottery-pick rookie battle with Deni Avdija of Israel, Toppin was more efficient, with eight points on 4-for-5shooting. Avdija also scored eight points, but was 1-for-5 on 3-pointers despite showing his fluid shooting stroke. The Knicks passed on Avdija, who looks like he’s going to be the next Danilo Gallinari, when they drafted Toppin.

With Toppin’s role ready to increase, Thibodeau was careful not to give a best-case scenario as the Knicks headed back to New York for Robinson to be evaluated.

“I don’t want to speculate on any of it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Once he gets back to New York, we’ll have our docs look at him and we’ll know exactly what the time frame looks like. It’ll be an estimate.’’

The Knicks face the Rockets at the Garden on Saturday for the first day without Robinson, who had played in all 27 games. In 11 days, the Garden will have some fans back — nearly 2,000 per game starting Feb. 23 against the Warriors.

Earlier in the day, Randle talked about getting the Garden rocking again.

“To have fans back at the Garden — even at that amount — is amazing,’’ Randle said. “We’re extremely excited to have our fan base to come to the game and experience the energy we’ve been feeling.’’

Rockets point guard John Wall, with his new team and new health, will visit a fan-less Garden on Saturday. The Rockets have hosted limited fans — and even that’s weird to Wall.

“The whole season is weird,’’ Wall said Thursday night. “It’s weird with COVID, testing every day, sometimes twice a day. Even the arenas having fans is different. You only see a few. It looks like you’re with a bad team that only has 2,000 fans and the rest aren’t there.”

The Knicks had stayed relatively free of any COVID-19 issues other than Frank Ntilikina, who was out of the rotation, leaving the team during this road trip due to contact tracing. Now they have gotten hit by a fluke play, sidelining Robinson.

As Wall said, it is a new world. Arriving by Amtrak at Washington’s Union Station on Friday for my season’s first road game, I stepped outside and the pandemic hit hard again. Usually the line for a cab is no less than 20 minutes, but Friday there was nobody outside Union Station — just a stream of depressingly empty cabs waiting in a ghost town.

There were no fans permitted in Washington on Friday night and nothing is planned to change that. After Saturday’s game against the Rockets, three more Garden contests remain before the World’s Most Famous Arena’s doors really reopen.

In 11 days, the sound of ticket scalpers will be music to one’s ears but the Knicks will have to fight without their starting center.

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