Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thoughts on Nate Robinson's Debut Last Night

Nate Robinson had a shaky debut last night, but I was glad to see him finally in a Celtics uniform as he begins to learn his position on and purpose for this Boston team. You might have not been as happy as I was just to see him being called on last night. You might have. But you cannot logically, nor immediately write off Nate Robinson because he didn't wow us instantly last night.

A lot of Celts' fans out there don't like Robinson, and I can't quite see why. Sure, in the past he has been prone to screw up in certain -- and possibly even crucial -- situations. He might have some difficulty understanding why we brought him here, and he might not comprehend that this simply isn't New York anymore. But the reason Nate Robinson is such a pain to deal with is because he's overcompetitive. And on a team that seemed to be slowly flat-lining in the first-half, overwhelming individual firepower might not be such a bad thing.

Look, you can't possibly look at the stats last night and be discouraged. Sure, from a statistical viewpoint, in a regular game, disregarding the circumstances, I'm sure none of us would be too happy with his game. He had two turnovers, shot 2-7 from the field, and finished with a -5 +/- in 16 minutes.

But did you ever think that Nate Robinson might have showed some -- gasp -- nervous emotion last night? I'd rather have him come in nervous that he would cause a ruckus between himself and the fans because of his play, or between himself and teammates because of his frustration than come in as an apathetic, arrogant loser. He might have been nervous because he'd been on a losing team for so long, he wasn't quite sure how to accept a lesser role but still have a positive effect on his team with it.

A few interesting quotes rounded up by WEEI's Jessica Camerato:
Dangerous When Hot

After sitting out 14 straight games this season, Robinson scored 41 points in 38 minutes off the bench to carry the Knicks to victory over the Hawks on Jan. 1. Being sidelined for a month did not stop him from jumping into action when called upon. Al Harrington remembers Robinson’s performance clearly.

“There was this one time this year, New Year’s Day, we watched him score [nearly 20] straight points,“ Harrington recalled. “So there’s a lot of times like that, hustle plays that he makes, doing stuff that nobody in the league could do except for a guy like him. So he’s always out there making plays.”
The things I like from that quote? One: teammates like him enough to recognize that he's out there hustling, not just scoring. Two: Harrington points out what a special catch he is, how he can help teams in different ways. Want him to go off for a Jamal Crawford-esque 17 quick bench points? He's the man for the job. Need to him to harass the other team with hustle plays and a defensive effort? You can count on Nate Robinson.

(Note: I really think he's going to be the guy to get us over the hump against the Atlanta Hawks. He can fire back when the Hawks are using young legs and quick buckets to slowly but steadily wear us down. Crawford can light it up from outside, but nobody can pick apart a team's interior defense by penetration as efficiently as Nate Robinson can. A very overlooked addition from this perspective.)
There When You Need Him

The Knicks dropped 14 of their first 17 games to start the season and were on another losing streak before Robinson was traded. In spite of the team’s consistent struggles, Robinson tried to keep spirits up. Wilson Chandler attests to the impact of Robinson’s vocal support.

“It’s a long season and we were on a five-game losing streak,“ Chandler recounted. “He’d just come in the locker room and say, ‘It’s a long season and we’ve got a lot of games left. Don’t get too down. We’ve got this amount of games and we can get right back in this.’ You look at it as it’s the truth. Coming from your teammate is different than coming from outside, like from your family or friends. It’s somebody that’s in the same situation as you. … He’s a good teammate as far as being there for you, sticking around, being there when you’re down. He likes to joke around a lot and sometimes you need that in the locker room.”
So you mean he's not some useless bum in the locker room? Wow!

With some guidance from the Celtics core locker room guys and support both on and off the court from Boston's amazingly charismatic guys, Nate Robinson is not going to stir up as much trouble as you think. Even more encouraging here? Similar to the last quote, this little tidbit shows that Robinson can step up in so many ways than just what he's known for, which is instant offense.

Could we possibly underwhelm this move with pessimism any more? (I was against Billy Walker as much as the rest of you were -- and disappointed further after his seven-points-in-12-minutes-showing last night -- but we can't get that back now. Let's focus on the ceiling with what we have, not what we could've had for a cheaper price.)
From Joking Around to Getting the Job Done

Robinson may enjoy joking around the off the court, but the Celtics require focus on the court. (You don’t see Kevin Garnett laughing on the parquet.) But even with Robinson's jovial personality, Chris Duhon says he can mesh with that intensity.

“It’s going to be interesting, but I think Nate, he’s very smart,“ Duhon said. “He’s going to be able to adjust to different personalities and he’s going to be able to feel his way. He’s still going to be able to be himself, but he’s probably going to pick and choose when he goes all out. But I think when it comes game time, depending on how the locker room is, he’ll figure it out. If it’s all business, he’ll be all business. He’s very smart in that aspect.”
I'm honestly lost for words at this point. He couldn't be any more perfect of a fit for this locker room.

Celtics Town also brought up this interesting point a few days ago:
J.R. Smith is a mistake-prone, immature young bench player with a tendency to get in his coach’s doghouse.  He can be hot as a pistol one day and cold as the Vancouver snow the next.  But he can score buckets, and change games.

Kind of like what the Celtics will soon see from Nate Robinson.

If you’re a Celtics fan wondering what Robinson can bring to the table, look no further than yesterday’s (Sunday's) game against the Denver Nuggets for your answer.  Robinson didn’t even play, but Smith brought the Denver Nuggets exactly what the Celtics hope Robinson will supply their second unit; buckets, buckets, and more buckets.

Smith was scintillating, scorching, and unstoppable in the fourth quarter, but Doc Rivers wasn’t too surprised. (CSNNE)
“That is what he does,” Rivers said. “J.R. Smith is a weapon. We said at the beginning of the game that he is the X-factor; he always is. When he scores, it is really difficult to beat them because Chauncey is going to play well and so is Carmelo (Anthony).”
What Smith did is exactly what the C’s are hoping Robinson will provide.
As Ric Bucher pointed out on SportsCenter this morning, the Celtics know what to do to win a title. The Cavs, the Magic, they don't quite know "where the finish line is," whereas Boston knows the level of play they have to commit to in order to win.

And from what we've heard about Nate Robinson, he might do a whole lot more than we think to be a part of that.

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