The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Nate Robinson

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2013

Nate Robinson is difficult to figure out.

Standing at 5'9" but with an athletic build that rivals everyone in the league, he teeters between a hot commodity and an afterthought.

His lack of size has left him an NBA journeyman who is barely making the veteran's minimum this year, but his ability to put points on the board in a hurry has allowed him to carve out an eight-year career at the professional level. He is one of just six players in league history play at least eight seasons while coming in at 5'9" and under.

To put yourself in the same company as Spud Webb and Calvin Murphy is no joke. It's beyond impressive.

Still, with so much talent, Robinson has spent stints with five different teams in a mere eight years. That's hardly indicative of an athletic freak that was drafted in the first round.

So we must ask ourselves: Why?

Someone seemingly so talented shouldn't be considered a non-entity on separate occasions, even if he his only 5'9". There has to be something else at play.


The Good

As previously noted, Robinson can score. A lot.

The point guard is averaging 18.9 points per 36 minutes on 43.6 percent shooting for the Chicago Bulls (40.6 percent from deep) this season. He's also their third-leading scorer at 13.3 PPG despite playing just over 25 minutes per game.

This is nothing new, though. Robinson is averaging 11.6 points per game for his career and 17.8 per 36 minutes. The latter makes him the second-highest scorer under 5'9" per 36 minutes in NBA history.

Since leaving the New York Knicks, his ability to assist in running the offense has gotten better as well. His ill-advised shots and unfounded heat checks are still notorious, but he's averaged at least four assists per game in each of the last two seasons.

Robinson is also currently the only player in the NBA to be averaging at least 13 points and four assists while playing in fewer than 26 minutes a night. Again, he's instant production.

Knicks fans know this only too well. He had three 40-point games with the team, logging more than 38 minutes in just one of them.

You've also got to appreciate Nate's never-ending supply of energy. Every time he comes off the bench and into the game, he's ready to play. He won't hesitate to take the big shot, and he's good for however many minutes you need him for.

While he may be severely undersized, he relies on his athleticism to remain productive. He also relied on it to become the first three-time Slam Dunk Contest champion in NBA history.

Finally, for an NBA nomad like himself, Robinson has built up quite the following.

Not only is he (usually) a fan favorite wherever he goes, but you know you're big time when people have tattoos of you (however ugly) put on their back.

Yes, Nate is tiny, but he packs a monstrous punch in so many different aspects of the game.


The Bad

Robinson isn't known for just his scoring or freak athletic abilities, he also drawn attention for his lack of maturity.

As valuable as his energy can be off the bench, he's almost 29 and seemingly has a lot of growing up to do.

When in New York, his antics got him on Mike D'Antoni's bad side, and he wound up requesting a trade, citing D'Antoni's supposed vendetta against him as the primary reason.

Shaquille O'Neal also criticized Robinson's work ethic in his book, Shaq Uncut: My Story, portraying him as obsessed with his "public persona" more so than his actual career.

With so many different NBA personalities essentially berating Robinson's maturity level, one would expect there has to be at least a shed of truth to their tales.

Some of Robinson's actions on the court only further the notion of his adolescent behavior.

His instant offense is valued, but his over-zealous trigger finger is not.

He's jacking up the second-most shots per 36 minutes on the Bulls (16.1) this year. To put that in further perspective, his number of field-goal attempts per 36 minutes trail that of Kevin Durant's by just .5 shots. Call me crazy, but that's a little much for someone making the veteran's minimum, even if he deserves more money.

What's also troubling is Robinson's shooting clip. He's never shot better than 43.7 percent from the floor overall, and is at 42.7 percent for his career.

For someone who shoots as much as he does, you would like to more of an emphasis on accuracy. When he gets going, he's difficult to stop, but when he's cold, man is he cold.

Also, if you're playing beside him and something good transpires, then watch out. His excessive celebration could wind up hurting you or him, or both.

Just ask Paul Pierce.


The Ugly

There are points where Robinson's antics become more ugly than bad.

Most recently, he could be found doing the discount double-check after nailing a three against the Knicks, in mockery of sharp-shooter Steve Novak...for the second time.

On the surface, those antics appear to be all in good fun, but far too often, Robinson emerges as more of a sideshow than anything.

Once again, this is nothing new, especially when it comes to the Knicks.

Upon returning to Madison Square Garden to face his former team as a member of the Celtics in 2010, Robinson made it point to taunt D'Antoni (via Frank Isola of the New York Daily News):

Lil' Him wasn't honoring his former coach Wednesday night as much as he was taunting him. With Boston building a 27-point third-quarter lead over the Knicks, Robinson twice made it a point to show that he was enjoying D'Antoni's misery.

It was another example of Nate being Nate during the Celtics' 109-97 victory over Robinson's former club.

Robinson, who taunted another of his former Knicks coaches - Larry Brown - last season, was lashing out at D'Antoni for benching him for 14 games in December, which led to the Knicks trading him last month.

Grudges are a part of the NBA. Feuds like the one between D'Antoni and Robinson are nothing new, but while this was years ago, Robinson is still going off in similar fashions today.

If it's not insulting the passive Novak, he's flexing as he goes up for a layup against the San Antonio Spurs, not unlike Karl Malone did.

Is Nate really at a point of his career where he should be mimicking one of the greatest NBA players there ever was? Borrowing Novak's moves (who borrowed it from Aaron Rodgers) is one thing, but Malone is an entirely different territory.

Of course, I believe Robinson would tell us he's merely jesting, that he's an easy-going person with a jovial attitude. He means no harm by what he does.

Nearly a decade into his career, though, that's not enough. He's not taken as seriously as he should be. And while some would point to his size, I don't think his over-the-top displays of celebration are helping either. 

Like at all.



*Unless otherwise noted, all stats in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference.


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