Mitchell Robinson gives Knicks fans reason to cheer — right now

It doesn’t matter how on board you may be with whatever it is the Knicks are doing. It doesn’t matter how often you may have declared your belief in the process (or whatever this week’s updated version of that process is). Doesn’t matter how much you buy in to the total rebuild the Knicks have sold you on.

Every now and again, you still need a little reward for your effort.

Every so often, if you’re paying $95 for the cheapest seat inside Madison Square Garden, you’d like to see a little return on your investment. Every two-hour bloc you carve out of your day to watch the nightly carnage on TV, you’d like some kind of sign that you aren’t wasting your time worse than a Phish fan at the philharmonic.

Every now and again, it’s nice to get the 8-minute and 15-second splurge you saw out of Mitchell Robinson on Tuesday night. When you get one of those, what’s happening on the scoreboard only vaguely matters. The eyesore of a record is a concern for another day.

“He keeps doing stuff,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said, “that we haven’t seen.”

When you watch Robinson go all next-level freak show, it’s almost like viewing real basketball again. In those 8 ¼ minutes in the first half, Robinson made six of his seven shots from the floor (most from an up-close, Zion’s-eye view of the basket), he scored 13 points (tying his career high for an entire game), grabbed five rebounds and blocked a shot.

And the Garden rumbled, man. It roared. They’ve stopped even pretending here most nights, because what’s the point? Losing isn’t just a culture surrounding the Garden anymore, it’s a mandate. The folks who still make the trek — and there were 17,853 of them Tuesday night — know better than to hope for victory; there hasn’t been one of those in this gym in 66 days (and counting, after this 105-92 Pistons win).

So they hope for other things: for Kevin Knox to give them one of those nights where he slashes and shoots and makes them shake their heads that he won’t turn 20 until August. For Dennis Smith Jr. to convince them he can be an essential part of the future.

And for Mitchell Robinson, who finished with those 13 points and 10 rebounds, to do what he did across those 495 seconds of the first half: allow them to dream a little bit. Allow them to think about what this uncut diamond could be with a little spit and a little polish. He’s also still but 20 years old. He’s 7-foot-1 and 240 pounds. As they say, you can’t teach that. He’s an athletic marvel.

Best of all, he’s something for Knicks fans to cheer about, someone to root for, and at these prices that ought to still have some value to it. It shouldn’t call into question your status as a fan and true believer if you desire something beyond an endless pile of awful losses that will ensure you all of a 14 percent chance, tops, at the No. 1 pick. Or if you’re tired of pretending that Enes Kanter is Jerry Lucas.

“It’s still a learning curve for me,” Robinson said — and many of those lessons, for now, are coming from DeAndre Jordan, freshly arrived from Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade. Jordan may not be here long, but he’s taken to Robinson already, willingly sharing much of the wisdom gleaned across 10 ½ years in the league and in the paint.

“The kid is a sponge,” Fizdale said. “They talk big man to big man. He’s jumped on it right away.”

If you care about the team, care about the sport, it shouldn’t all be one grim, endless slog toward July 1, when the Knicks can try to woo the prettiest girls in school and ask them — beg them — to the prom.

There has to be something about which to talk about in the present tense.

Robinson does that. Not always. Not always in the same night, either — he was much quieter when he re-entered the game for another 10 ½-minute shift in the third quarter, and again at the end. But the Garden surely appreciated those opening 8 minutes and 15 seconds, made it seem like they were actually watching meaningful basketball again.

The people here really don’t ask for much. Which is a good thing.

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