If center Mitchell Robinson is traded or continues to break down physically, the role of Knicks second-round pick Jericho Sims will loom large.
A four-year player at Texas, he slipped to 58th in the draft — the result of the bias against college seniors. He’s got little offensive game and is a poor free-throw shooter, but he projects as a potential defensive specialist at an athletic 6-foot-10.
In a Zoom call after the first Las Vegas summer league practice, Sims said yes, he was surprised he fell that far.
“I am, but I ’m glad to be here though and to see what we can do with the team,’’ Sims said. “Anything I’m needed for, I’ll work for it and put the time in.”
Sims, 22, gave clipped responses and clearly will let his game do the talking as the Knicks open with Toronto on Sunday at UNLV.
“I think just learning the sets and talking to the coaches and asking them what they want and really sitting down, taking the time to break down different games and practices,’’ Sims said.
The Knicks, according to a source, were considering Kentucky big man Isaiah Jackson at 21, but traded back to 25. Jackson was off the board by then, but they still beefed up at 58.
Asked if his four-year college stint served as a turnoff to NBA teams, Sims said, “There’s other things that might hurt one’s draft status, so I’m not sure about that. I just had more time I would say, but it’s a different level. I think that I’m ready either way.’’
Sims wouldn’t say which player he emulates or comment too much on a video that went viral. He knocked his head on the rim three weeks ago while dunking during a pro day workout — an indication of his hops.
“I think it got people talking a little bit more, but I’m not sure how it necessarily contributed to it,’’ Sims said.
Sims finally got to meet coach Tom Thibodeau in Vegas.
“He’s a cool, down-to-Earth guy,’’ Sims said. “Got a chance to talk to him for a good amount of time after we played. It’s a good first day. We jumped right into it and got acclimated out in Vegas.’’
He has yet to meet center Nerlens Noel or Robinson, who still is in a walking boot after getting foot surgery March 30. It’s believed the Knicks re-signed Noel just in case Robinson isn’t durable this season — which would likely prompt a trade before he hits unrestricted free agency.
“I haven’t gotten a chance to meet them, but it will be great to get to know them once we get back to New York,’’ said Sims, a native of Minnesota.
Unless there’s a trade, Sims likely will sign a two-way G-League deal that would allow him to play 50 games with the Knicks. A lot will depend on how his five-game summer league goes.
The Knicks received a blow when small forward Kevin Knox, was ruled out of the summer league due to COVID-19 safety and health protocols. The 2018 lottery pick had volunteered to play in his third summer league, partly because he was held to just 464 minutes last season and perhaps to showcase himself. Knox played 2,158 and 1,166 minutes respectively in his first two seasons.
It’s no secret the Knicks are willing to trade Knox in any deal as he enters his fourth and final season before becoming a restricted free agent. Knox was out of the Knicks’ rotation after late January as Thibodeau didn’t feel he played with a high-enough motor on defense.