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Nerlens Noel is in a competition with Mitchell Robinson for the Knicks’ starting center spot. He’s also serving as a role model for his 22-year-old teammate.
The 26-year-old Noel insists that while helping Robinson and competing with him are very different, they won’t interfere with one another.
“It is awkward? No, it’s not awkward at all,” Noel said after practice on Saturday. “Me and him are both competitive players that want to be in a competitive game. But, regardless, I’m going to teach him and help him nurture himself into [becoming] a complete player.”
Noel got the start Friday night against the Pistons in the Knicks’ preseason opener, though the two saw similar minutes. Noel had 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in 25 minutes while Robinson had two points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks in 22 minutes. On Friday, coach Tom Thibodeau said he wasn’t sure who would start, but plans to use both.
“[Robinson’s] only 22, so he’s got a lot of time on his side,” Noel said. “Myself being 26, I’ve just seen a little more than he has. Experience is everything, and if you can have it told to you, as opposed to going through it yourself, that’s only [helping him].
“I’m going to give all my knowledge to him and try to help him further himself while trying to help this team win games.”
Thibodeau said he plans to use different combinations in Sunday’s rematch at Detroit but said he was unsure exactly what those would be. He was noncommittal about using the same starting five, which included one surprise with newcomer Alec Burks at shooting guard and RJ Barrett moving to small forward. Thibodeau said he would like to see more of Julius Randle and rookie Obi Toppin playing together.
“It’s really the first two teams, mixing and matching with the guys,” he said. “Who we start with might be more different than who we finish with.”
The Knicks announced the signing of forward Andrew White III on Saturday in a procedural move that will net him $50,000. He averaged 11.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 41 games with the G-League Westchester Knicks last year. White will be playing for Westchester again.