Thomas Robinson: Rockets Smart to Not Rush Rookie Forward into Starting Role

Justin OnslowContributor IIFebruary 25, 2013

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 30: Thomas Robinson #0 of the Sacramento Kings dunks the ball against the Boston Celtics during the game on January 30, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Thomas Robinson didn’t get a fair shake in Sacramento, but he has the potential to be a cornerstone for Houston’s frontcourt. He just has to wait to prove it.

According to a Yahoo! Sports report on February 23, head coach Kevin McHale doesn’t plan to play the 2012 first-round pick until he practices with the team. The Rockets have confirmed via their official Twitter account that he practiced with the team on Monday:

As that tweet noted, Robinson’s playing time will be up to McHale, but he was smart to not rush the rookie into an immediate starting role with the team.

Sacramento selected the former Kansas star with its No. 5 selection in the 2012 draft. While he has tremendous potential on both ends of the floor, Robinson fell out of favor with head coach Keith Smart. He averaged just 15.9 minutes per game with the Kings this season, and his statistical production (4.8 points, 4.7 rebounds) was nothing to suggest he’d be seeing more time on the floor in the immediate future.

Robinson wasn’t happy with his situation in Sacramento, and he wants to prove he can be the dominant player everyone expected him to be when he takes the court for Houston (as quoted by Dave Zangaro of

It’s not about that right now. I felt like I had something to prove coming into the draft and I didn’t get a chance to show that or whatever the case may be but, like I said, I got a second chance here and I got a long career ahead of me. My career will show. 

For a rookie expected to be an immediate impact player at the NBA level, spending most of his time on the bench wasn’t a good way to develop his skills. Robinson is in a better situation now, but that doesn’t mean he should be thrown in the deep end.

McHale worked with Robinson after practice on Monday, giving the big man some one-on-one instruction (per Zangaro). Judging by his acrimonious departure, it’s hard to believe Robinson ever got that with the Kings.

Robinson has a chance to do big things in Houston, especially with one of the best big men in NBA history instructing him. McHale’s in-game management has come into question at times, but there’s no denying his ability to teach—especially to a young player who is willing to learn.

Robinson needs time to learn and develop; rushing into a starting role won’t help him develop without a sound foundation. He also doesn’t need the added pressure.

That’s not to say the rookie couldn’t have an immediate impact with Houston. He has one of the highest ceilings of any rookie big man in the NBA. In order to reach that potential, though, he has to be given time to grow as a player.

With Robinson’s skill set—and the lack of a dominant power forward on Houston’s roster—he’ll have a chance to show what he can do. He just won’t be asked to show it all at once.