May 7, 2013, 1:50 PM EDT
If you only watch the last quarter of NBA playoff games, you have to be asking, “what is not to love about Nate Robinson?”
We love the plucky underdog and Robinson is that — a guy listed at 5-foot-9 who has won the dunk contest twice. A guy leading a Bulls team so banged up they are pretty much ready to pull guys out of the front row and suit them up, past the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the second round of the NBA playoffs. Robinson has been the NBA’s leading fourth quarter scorer these playoffs (he’s combined 82 points and assists in the fourth quarter these playoffs, 20 ahead of Kevin Durant) and the Bulls are still playing because of him.
It’s easy to like him if you’re a fan. He has a big personality; he plays with confidence and his emotions on his sleeve (well, if the NBA allowed sleeves).
The NBA is full of guys it’s hard for fans to relate to — you have to win the genetic lottery to be 6-8 and athletically gifted — but Robinson is a normal sized guy who makes plays among the trees of the Association. Fans eat that up. They relate to Robinson. They want more Robinson. Far more than his coaches ever have.
“God blessed me with a lot of heart and no height, and I’ll take that any day,” Robinson said after the Bulls win Monday. That’s the kind of statement that will win him even more admirers.
Fans (particularly casual fans) have always loved the way he played. They loved him at Ranier Beach High School in Seattle where he was a three-sport star. They loved him at the University of Washington where he was an undersized defensive back on the football team (All Pac-10 Freshman Team) and an undersized point guard on the basketball team. He had options but wanted to play in the NBA and was drafted in the first round.
He had his hero moments that endeared him to fans in New York. In Boston he was “donkey” to Glen Davis’ “Shrek” and won them Game 5 of the NBA finals in 2010. He’s made fans in Oklahoma City (but coach Scott Brooks buried him on the bench in the playoffs because he had better options). He’s had his moments with Golden State.
And we all remember Nate Robinson, the little guy who won the All-Star Dunk Contest. Twice.
So why has a guy who has averaged 18.3 points per game these playoffs, who has been a fourth quarter beast, bounced around the NBA like a pinball?
Because he doesn’t always play like this.
The incredible confidence that allows Robinson to attack and fearlessly take shots at the end of games is a double-edged sword — when he is 0-15 he is not going to stop shooting. Making them or not, he is going to take bad shots — they thrill the crowd when they are falling, they make coaches reach for the Tums when they don’t. And even when they do.
More than that, his size makes him a defensive liability. Well, his size and the fact Robinson likes to gamble on defense. His style on defense is classic Robinson — his risks mean some amazing steals and plays that thrill the crowd, but also means missed assignments that lead to great shots for the opposition.
Nate giveth and Nate taketh away.
Which is not Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau’s style. He just has no choice, his roster is so banged up he has to start and play Robinson heavy minutes.
And he has been rewarded — Bulls have been rewarded — with some of the most entertaining basketball in Chicago in a long, long time. When Nate is good, he is very, very good.
Robinson will get rewarded a little this summer — he is an unrestricted free agent and he will get a payday somewhere. There are teams that could use his skillset, his personality.
I think one astute Bulls fan summed it up well on Twitter late Monday night: “I have never loved a player so much I don’t want back on the team next year.”
But they want him on the floor right now. Especially with the game on the line.
Mar 16, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
DeMar DeRozan expressed his displeasure over a non-call by kicking the ball away from a referee — a move which guaranteed him a quick whistle in the form of a technical foul.
Mar 16, 2014, 7:41 PM EDT
Midway through the third quarter you had to like how the Rockets were playing against the Heat in Miami. Tied 92-92, the Rockets got what seemed like their 5,347th floater in the lane of the night, this time it was Chandler Parsons over Chris Andersen. The Rockets players did not fear the Heat shot blockers…
Mar 16, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Patrick Beverley leaves LeBron James in the dust, before attacking the rim and throwing down a huge slam on Chris Bosh.
Mar 16, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
LeBron takes a nice pass from Wade and elevates over Dwight Howard for the vicious first quarter slam.
Mar 16, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Jarrett Jack believes custom fitting players with the sleeved jerseys would reduce the complaints. But he still doesn’t like the way they look, regardless of how they do or do not impact performance. “We’re like the Beach Police,” Jack said.
Mar 16, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT
How I wish “Brian” were real. Alas, this is a faux documentary on former NBA player Brian Scalabrine is not real. Still, the trailer is brilliant. An actual documentary following Scalabrine, now an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, would be interesting. He’s long been one of the better interviews around the NBA, his…
Mar 16, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Jim Cleamons is currently an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks, but he was a member of Phil Jackson’s coaching staff both in Chicago and Los Angeles, and has nine championship rings to show for it. The Bucks happened to be in town to face the Knicks on Saturday, just one day after the news…
Mar 16, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Doc Rivers, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan all recently explained why they’re against the NBA raising its age limit. But there are valid reasons on the argument’s other side.
Mar 16, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
John Wall splits two defenders near mid-court before putting the exclamation point on a win over the Nets with a thunderous slam.
Mar 16, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
The Sixers are currently riding a 20-game losing streak, but for better or for worse, no one inside the Philadelphia organization is deluding themselves as to what’s going on there this season. Call it tanking, or as the NBA’s new commissioner Adam Silver prefers, rebuilding. But either way, there’s going to be a whole lot…
Mar 15, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
There are plenty of players who make exaggerated vocal noise during the course of an NBA game, with Carlos Boozer of the Bulls perhaps heading up that very long list. While it’s accepted to a certain extent, it’s also nice to see a veteran of the game point out just how ridiculous it is. During…
Mar 15, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT
How Detroit’s Andre Drummond staggered and went down after this hit, and how he stayed down for several minutes (all the way through the ensuing commercial break not part of the above video), is a little frightening. The medical staff brought out a stretcher but he got up under his own power and was helped…
Mar 15, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Joakim Noah receives a $500K bonus if he’s named to the All-NBA first team. Does he have a shot?
Mar 15, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Carmelo Anthony seems initially pleased with the hiring of Phil Jackson. Mike Woodson, on the other hand, didn’t sound quite as optimistic — for obvious reasons.
Mar 15, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
The Thunder are just a game back of the Spurs for the league’s best record, an achievement that would guarantee home court advantage throughout the playoffs. But they’ll willingly be hurting that effort by resting Russell Westbrook as a precautionary measure in certain back-to-back sets.
Mar 15, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
We’ve known for a very long time that the Lakers wouldn’t be making the playoffs this season. After Friday night’s loss, it became official.
Mar 15, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
The mere presence of Phil Jackson in the Knicks front office will have an immediate impact in terms of big-name free agents looking at New York as a possible destination.
Mar 15, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
After playing out consecutive 10-day contracts, the Nets have signed Jason Collins for the remainder of the season.
Mar 15, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Kenneth Faried showed why the Nuggets would have been crazy to trade him at the deadline, as he helped send the Heat to their fifth loss in six games.
Mar 15, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Ultimately Thomas Wolfe will be proven right, you can’t go home again. Not even Phil Jackson. It’s easy to sit back and list the reasons Jackson’s return to the team that drafted him, taking over basketball operations of the New York Knicks, will not work: James Dolan; Jackson has never had any front office experience before;…
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