Today we take a look at one of the more colorful players on The Thunder roster, Nate Robinson. Nate was acquired in the mid-season trade that also brought Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder. Robinson has quickly become one of the fan favorites at OKC Arena and his enthusiasm is palpable. Although small by a normal person's standards at 5'9", Robinson has still parlayed remarkable athleticism and leaping ability into an effective role as a second unit player. History: Robinson is somewhat coincidentally a Seattle native, growing up in Rainier Beach and playing high school basketball and football there. He was a standout player in both sports.
Today we take a look at one of the more colorful players on The Thunder roster, Nate Robinson. Nate was acquired in the mid-season trade that also brought Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder. Robinson has quickly become one of the fan favorites at OKC Arena and his enthusiasm is palpable. Although small by a normal person's standards at 5'9", Robinson has still parlayed remarkable athleticism and leaping ability into an effective role as a second unit player.
Robinson is somewhat coincidentally a Seattle native, growing up in Rainier Beach and playing high school basketball and football there. He was a standout player in both sports.
He was recruited locally and joined the Washington Huskies basketball program, where he led the program to two consecutive NCAA tournament births. Robindon also was a key contributor to the Huskies' football program as well, playing in the defensive backfield.
Robinson was drafted in 2005 by the Phoenix Suns and then immediately traded to the NY Knicks. Unfortunately for him, this meant that instead of playing behind Steve Nash for the first half of his career, he was relegated to the NBA's version of organization hell, as Robinson sufffered through the train wreckage that was the Knicks franchise. Despite the team's bad condition, Robinson worked hard to bring excitement to the Madison Square Garden, but his infectious energy often brought him trouble as well as praise. Sandwiched in between his slam dunk championships in 2006 and 2009 was an ugly brawl between the Knicks and the Nuggets, which resulted in a 10 game suspension for Robinson.
It was during this time period where Robinson's playing style began to openly clash with new coach Mike D'Antoni, and amidst another bad season Robinson was deactivated for 14 games of the 2009-2010 season. Despite still bringing plenty of bench scoring and excitement, not to mention a 3rd slam dunk championship, the writing was on the wall and the Knicks traded Robinson to the Boston Celtics right before the 2010 trading deadline. Robinson proved to be a valuable bench player during the Celtics' playoff push, helping Boston reach (but ultimately fail) in the 2010 Finals against the Lakers.
Robinson was part of the 2011 mid-season trade that brought Kendrick Perkins to OKC in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. His play time has been limited, but it has never impacted Robinson's excitement for his teammates or for the crowd's affection toward him.
In the pre-season, Robinson was still a small but valuable cog in the Celtics machine. That team, with its defensive focus, could always use a shot in the arm from an offensive standpoint, especially since their starting point guard Rajon Rondo was not a perimeter threat. As a result, Robinson was to be used as a change of pace guard and give the Celtics offensive contribution from their bench.
Regular Season Grade: C+
If we break down his season before and after the trade, it is easy to argue that Robinson gave the Celtics what they were looking for in terms of production. Robinson frequently got 15-20 minutes of game time and offered an array of 3-point shooting and drives to the rim. If you recall, we had Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog gave us his assessment of Nate, and I think that prediction bore itself out well:
"He is what he is at this point. He plays every minute of every game like it was the last 5 minutes of a blowout game. Who cares if there's a rebounder under the basket when (in his mind) it is going in every time? Who needs to set up the offense when he's got an open look? With that said, you need confidence to be a good shooter and scorer, and he's got that in spades. The words Napoleonic Complex might as well be tattooed across his chest."
From a Thunder standpoint, Robinson's season as an on-court participant probably deserves an "incomplete" since most of the time he was on the injured reserve, recovering from arthroscopic surgery. However, despite the fact that Robinson rarely saw the court and was buried behind Eric Maynor as the backup PG, Robinson was still the biggest bench cheerleader for the team. Especially for a young team like the Thunder, that is a quality that cannot be overlooked.
Post Season Grade: C-
Robinson saw the court on three occasions, two of which involved blowout wins. In the Game Five win against the Grizzlies, Robinson was part of the crew of players that was criticized afterward for hot-dogging the game when it was long out of reach.
The one moment where Robinson was used in a key situation was in Game One against Dallas, where Scott Brooks was hunting for an offensive spark. It was a valid attempt at instant offense from a guy who has been known to give it. Unfortunately, Robinson could not make a basket and was badly beaten on defense, so the experiment was mercifully killed.
While Robinson's on-court contributions were unmemorable, he still brought ample enthusiasm for the Thunder's post-season run, and that deserves some credit.
Most Memorable Game:
Robinson's most memorable game as a member of the Thunder probably occurred in his very first after the trade was made. In his home debut, Robinson got eight minutes of game time in a blow-out against the Indiana Pacers. He came into the game to an amazing welcome, as the Thunder fans showed him a lot of love despite his being a new face. He sprinted and bounced around the court like a running back, and in the end netted six points and a standing ovation.
Most Memorable Single Moment:
I'm going to go with a small moment that came in the middle of the playoff series against the Grizzlies in the critical Game Two. If you recall, in that home game a fan was given the chance to take the $20,000 shot, and for the 3rd time this season, the shot went in.
And there was Nate, cheering on a fan that he did not know, had never met, and will likely never see again the rest of his life. A cynic might say that this type of moment is the precise reason why Robinson will never fulfill his potential - he cannot stay focused. I counter with the fact that this is the kind of thing that makes Robinson so valuable - he genuinely cares about other people and is happy when they're happy.
Looking ahead to the 2011-12 season, Nate is still going to be 3rd on the PG depth chart, and I honestly don't see that changing, barring injury to Russell Westbrook or Eric Maynor. He is always going to have trouble getting valuable minutes when the team is playing well. However, there will always be those stretches where the team needs a spark, and he does have the ability to provide it.
That said, Robinson clearly needs to have a tighter focus on the game that is in front of him and not allow his excitement for the moment override his play. He still has considerable talent, and that talent can be applied and made useful. Like the rest of the Thunder, his challenge in the future if he remains in a Thunder uniform is going to be the relationship between his talent and basketball maturity.
A: Far exceeded expectations
B: Exceeded expectations
C: Met expectations
D: Did not meet expectations
F: Fell far short of expectations