Nate Robinson has become, hands down, one of the most popular players in all of the NBA. Listed at 180 pounds and 5 foot 9 inches, but admittedly shorter, this boy wonder has taken the league and all of its fans by storm. He has come a long way from being suspended for 10 games for his role in a brawl with the Denver Nuggets in 2006. His jersey is now the 10th most popular sold on NBA.com and in the NBA Store in New York City. Of course, his uncanny ability to jump over Dwight Howard at the NBA’s Slam Dunk competition, let alone his ability to dunk at all, has turned many heads. The way this little man hops up and down the court, pumping his fists during timeouts, at Madison Square Garden can definitely bring the crowd to its feet. In his “short” career, he has already given Knicks fans many great memories. He shocked all when he made a leaping block against Yao Ming in a game against the Rockets last season. This year, he has perfected his alley-oop – on the dunking end. He is more than just your average vertically challenged ball player. He is; Kyrpto-Nate!
Google his name, and you will see that Nate Robinson has been one of the more talked about players around the league over the past two weeks. Sure, winning this year’s dunk contest has helped his status, but Robinson has done much more to be recognized. He recently pieced together a string of 30-plus point games for the Knicks, the last of which was a 40-plus effort against the Pacers before his favorite fan -- Will Ferrell (who received a pound from Robinson as he scored an emphatic layup down the stretch and watched him “shake and bake” his way to his season high explosion). Robinson has become a prime candidate to win the Sixth Man of the Year award.
With Robinson’s popularity at its all-time high, Knicks President Donnie Walsh apparently thought this was an opportune time to field offers for him. The Sacramento Kings had certainly gotten Walsh’s attention.
After talks died on ESPN’s Marc Stein reported on Thursday that the Kings had agreed to take on Jared Jeffries’ contract along with Robinson in exchange for Kenny Thomas. Stein had continued to report this was still a possibility even after 3 pm trade deadline passed, but ultimately, the Knicks refused.
It looks like it was for the better.
Since the trade of Jamal Crawford, “Kyrpto-Nate” has come into his own to provide the Knicks with a strong scoring presence in addition to Al Harrington. He also provides legitimate relief for Chris Duhon at point guard. He is averaging nearly 18 points per game, four rebounds, and four assists off the bench
Although Nate stayed put after the trading deadline, the Knicks did trade for Bulls guard Larry Hughes and Thunder big man Chris Wilcox, so there will be less pressure on Nate’s small shoulders. The bottom-line is, Nate is still a Knick. But for how long?
Robinson will be a restricted free agent this summer. The Knicks already have their hands full with a long list of to-do’s, including locking up David Lee long term and still making way for the free agent class of 2010.
While it is great that Donnie Walsh is clearing cap for 2010, only Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries have guaranteed contracts past then. Obviously, those are not the players to attract any marquee talent.
The Knicks should allow room for Robinson. He would more than likely demand a Midlevel Exception salary. Given how inflated contracts have become over the last few off seasons, that is not at all an unreasonable demand.
That being said, put that type of contract next to Curry, Jeffries, two max contracts, and Lee (assuming he gets re-signed), and you have a dilemma.
With the trading deadline over, the Knicks have less than two years to move the contracts of Curry and/or Jeffries, but as the list of other priorities grows, it is an absolute must.
For Walsh to have any chance of signing Lebron and/or Chris Bosh, or somebody of that caliber, not only does the team need to have cap room, but it needs to have a foundation. Given their team options are exercised, you can count in Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari.
One would love to include Chris Duhon in that mix, but his recent emergence may price him out of the Knicks’ ballpark. If Duhon is too pricy, perhaps an older Steve Nash would want to finish his career closer to home with his old coach at a discounted price.
The Knicks need to sign David Lee to a contract similar to that of Eddy Curry’s, and by 2010 have Curry shipped out of town. With Hughes, Richardson, and Harrington all off the payroll by then as well, the Knicks would have a chance at affording Robinson, who could split time with Duhon/Nash, similar to what he is doing now.
The Knicks are attempting to build a playoff and eventual championship contender. After seeing his play as of late, it seems Nate Robinson and the word “championship” might come hand in hand.
The Knicks need Robinson, perhaps even more than Robinson needs the big city to embrace him. He thrives on the New York crowds, providing energy no other player brings and has shown that he can be an offensive force.
He may not be the best defender, and his size does provide the Knicks with mismatches, but he hustles his butt off to get back on the other end of the floor and fight for the ball, jumping into the stands as he has so many times before.
If the Knicks can channel his combustible behavior, Robinson would be a great piece to keep past 2010. There should be a way to fit him into the payroll. Dare I say, he could end up an alternative to LeBron James’ Daniel Gibson.
All of the championship teams of the past few years have had that overall spark player come off the bench. Manu Ginobili of the Spurs is the most notable example, going from just part of San Antonio’s “big three” with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, to one of the league’s best sixth men during his team’s multiple championship runs.
Lebron alone is one of the league’s most exciting players. Imagine two of the “most" exciting on one team? Could we possibly see Lebron and Robinson on the same squad electrifying crowds for years to come? Kyrpto-Nate and King James as the new dynamic duo?
Who knows, LeBron and Robinson may be delivering an action-packed championship to Knicks fans in the future. Even Lois Lane wouldn’t mind that! Well, can’t blame a fan for dreaming.
However, one thing is a reality. Robinson can rest assured he will keep putting that Knicks jersey on…for now.