The Chicago Bulls finally saw their season come to an end this week.
They had fought the good fight, but in the end, they just didn't have enough to stretch the defending champion Miami Heat past five games.
For many around the league, that seemed like an improbable feat in itself.
The Heat were supposed to destroy the beat-up Bulls. But one man in particular keyed the spark that led the Bulls to shock the Heat in Game 1.
That man is Nate Robinson.
An Odd Path
Robinson spent his first several years in the league with the New York Knicks.
Known as a fiery, but undersized scoring point guard with the Knicks, Robinson's biggest highlights were three Slam Dunk titles and a fight with J.R. Smith.
Since being dealt by the Knicks in the 2009-10 season, Robinson has bounced around the league between the Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors before signing with the Bulls for the league minimum this offseason.
So why did it take him that long to find a home?
The biggest culprit is that he is drastically undersized. Even though he is very solidly built, he is only 5'9".
On most nights, he is between four and seven inches shorter than his opponent. His strength generally could help him and so could his leaping ability, but Robinson has never been overly interested in that end of the court.
His offensive game is, in a word, explosive. He can score from deep and has the quickness to get to the rim. His range is genuinely unlimited, and he can pretty much get his shot off against anyone.
But another knock on him is that he can be overly emotional, which can rub some coaches and general managers the wrong way.
Additionally, he is very inconsistent with his shot selection, often taking ill-advised shots regardless of the shot clock or the situation.
He has a fighter's mentality and likes to take heat-check triples.
In the right situation and with the right team, he can be a great weapon. But if he isn't used properly, he can blow up your team.
Where Is He Headed?
It's tough to say what exactly Robinson's value and role will be next year.
When he went off in Game 1, it appeared that he may have played himself right out of the Bulls' price range.
But he essentially ran out of gas later on and may have hurt his free-agent value.
It is safe to say that he has found a home with Chicago if the Bulls can meet his contract demands. This may prove tough since the Bulls have quite a bit of money already committed to next season.
He also will have some competition as far as undersized scoring point guards in free agency. Will Bynum and Jarrett Jack are each players who will be competing with Robinson for these jobs.
It really depends on what the market dictates. It isn't outside of the realm of possibilities for Robinson to command a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $4 million per season.
It also isn't impossible to imagine the Bulls re-signing Robinson for closer to $3 million per year.
Either way, it looks like Robinson is likely heading for a decent pay raise.
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