By now, word around the league has spread. The NBA’s most famous little man, Nate Robinson, is no longer dunking the ball, nor making leaping blocks against the likes of Yao Ming; he’s been sitting on the Knicks’ bench for the past four games.
Of course, if one wasn’t an active fan of the Knicks, this would come as a shock. Why wouldn’t Robinson, one of the league’s most explosive and popular players, be playing for a hopeless team like the Knicks?
The truth is, the Knicks are actually starting to look like a playoff team. After struggling to find the right mix of players all season long, Coach Mike D’Antoni has finally found a lineup that has thus far proven to be successful, as remarkable as that sounds. They have won four of five, but unfortunately, it has been at the expense of Robinson’s losing his spot in the rotation completely.
Over the last few weeks, the Knicks have been playing with more structure; an organized offense, in addition to a new focus on defense. The downside for Robinson is that he has failed to demonstrate either of these traits during his tenure with the Knicks. He is a hot and cold type player, and his explosiveness can often result in his playing quite recklessly with little to no focus on the court.
As the Knicks looking like a playoff team seems nothing less than a miracle, there are no changes or altercations within the foreseeable future. As much as fans love Robinson, the bleeding must be stopped. The Knicks as a whole take priority over individuals, even their most popular player.
Will Robinson, who has fought injuries in addition to his abolishment to the bench, even be invited back to Slam Dunk Contest? He has only played in 12 games thus far, and his only form of relevance has been conversations about him missing from the Knicks lineup.
That being said, he is the defending champ, and the NBA in 2009 is a league in which Tracy McGrady is on track to be voted into the All-Star Game as a starter, even though he has yet to play a game. I think Robinson’s spot in All-Star weekend is still being reserved.
Will he still be in a Knicks uniform by then? Chances are yes he will, but it still may be the first time in months he takes off his warm up gear.
If they were to shop Robinson, the Knicks would face difficulty. As a player on a one year contract, Robinson can veto any trade, as he would lose his “bird rights” for next summer’s free agency. Furthermore, it can be surmised that the only reason Robinson is even in a Knicks uniform this season to begin with is because there was a lack of interest in him last summer. With the Knicks looking to deal, not a lot of teams are expected to bite the bait.
While the Knicks should of course explore all options, they are in no means desperate to rid themselves of Robinson. The “We Want Nate!” chants from fans can be heard at just about any game now, as Robinson’s popularity has not taken a hit one bit. He has also been nothing less than a model citizen during his time out of the lineup, and is in shape enough to help should the team be hit with injuries.
As his current chances of playing time look rather bleak, it’s time for Nate Robinson to start looking ahead. His time in New York is obviously running out, as D’Antoni has made up his mind.
D’Antoni has disregarded Robinson, citing his attitude as one of the reasons for his benching, and even chuckles at the thought of putting in Robinson when asked by reporters.
The only thing Robinson can do now? Feel the power. Despite all this, his short frame still stands tall, and he can help the right team.
Robinson needs to prove he can effectively contribute to a team without letting his emotions get the best of him. What’s the best way to do that? Sign somewhere in the offseason where you won’t be expected to carry the team on your back or be a starring attraction.
Translation: sign with a contender.
If Robinson can overcome his emotions, and sometimes cockiness, he should sign a short term deal with a playoff/championship contender. If he can prove that he can blend in, more teams will be calling his number when his contract is up, knowing he can succeed, be it as a star, or a piece of the puzzle.
That’s all speculation…for now. Nate Robinson is still a New York Knick and all he can do is be optimistic that the chants of his hopeful fans will pave a path for him back onto the hardwood.
After all, he’s been a Knick for four losing seasons.
Isn’t that punishment enough, Mr. D’Antoni?