Six months ago, if anyone had predicted Nate Robinson would be playing in the NBA Finals, there’s a good chance they would be considered crazy.
“Good things happen to people who wait.”
That was Robinson’s simple statement on January 1st, after erupting for 41 points and leading the Knicks (his team at the time) to a victory over the Hawks. Before entering that game, Robinson was benched for 14 straight games because of what Coach Mike D’Antoni referred to as disciplinary reasons.
As a Knick, Robinson was known for his electrifying yet often erratic style of play. A lightning bolt off the bench for four and a half seasons, he knew how to work the passionate Madison Square Garden and get them on their feet, often cheering for a Knicks squad with little promise.
His prolonged benching was no doubt a result of his loose style of play, as Robinson would play uncontrollably. The icing on the cake came when Robinson took a shot on the opposing team’s basket during a Knicks-Nets matchup.
That shot, nevertheless, was after the quarter buzzer had sounded.
Even after his “disciplinary” benching, Robinson showed resilience and came back with a vengeance. His 41 point performance proved his confidence never wavered. However, it was his toned down performances that followed that proved he was committed to giving the coaching staff exactly what they were asking for.
His display of responsibility is perhaps what led the Celtics to take a chance on the energetic little man. As a player playing on a one year contract, Robinson had the right to veto any trade. However, the Celtics’ need for that offensive jolt off the bench and Robinson’s desire to play for a winner made the two parties a good match.
The Knicks sent Robinson to the Celtics at the trading deadline.
Perhaps as Robinson worked to rebuild his reputation, Boston was a beneficial fit. Robinson was sharing time with a number of veterans on the bench, and as the team geared for the playoffs, he was no longer the center of attention.
In the months that followed, Robinson has visibly become a smarter player, more than likely, a result of learning from a great coaching staff and an even greater core of veterans.
Nevertheless, Robinson has not lost the electrifying part of his game. If anything, he has learned to balance it with sound, fundamental play.
“There will be a game where we’re flat, and we’re going to need somebody to come in and make something happen, and Nate will do that. And I told him that yesterday. I told him there will be a game that he’s going to win us. He’s going to win us a playoff game.”
Those were Coach Doc Rivers’ motivational words regarding Robinson in April. “Little him” proved his coach correct as he scored 13 points in eight minutes during a crucial run in the deciding game of the Eastern Conference finals in which the Celtics defeated the Magic to advance.
Robinson’s reference to good things happening to those who wait has proved correct once again, as he has patiently waited his way all the way to the NBA Finals. Although the Celtics lost to the Lakers in game one, Robinson had a positive performance, dishing out four assists and no turnovers in 13 minutes.
If Knicks fans were watching last night, they could have still noticed similarities in Nate’s game from when he played in the “World’s Most Famous Arena”. As he dribbled back and forth across the three point line, Knicks fans would usually cringe, as an erratic shot was almost sure to follow.
Last night was different.
As he dribbled with his head down, now donning white and green, Robinson looked up just about every time, delivering precise passes to Boston’s big men for easy layups.
Yes, last night was different. As the Knicks have been watching the playoffs from home every step of the way, Nate Robinson was been a part of a risen Celtics team. Taking out other Eastern Conferences along the way, Robinson and the Celtics can feel proud that they are playing in the NBA Finals as 28 other teams watch from home.
Robinson’s proof that he can fit on a winning team should help him dramatically as he looks for a new contract this summer, be it from the Celtics, or anyone else interested in his services.
“Good things happen to people who wait.”