Nate Robinson has been the Chicago Bulls’ unsung hero. Photo Credit: Shinya, Flickr.com
With a guy like Nate Robinson, it can be easy to focus on the negatives. The Chicago Bulls’ point guard has a lot of strengths, but sometimes, his poor decision making tends to take over. We think of the time he shot the ball at his own basket and was benched for a month. We think of him as an unfortunate relic of the horrid late 2000s New York Knicks teams. And when we think of him in a positive light, it’s probably not because of his on-the-court skill, but rather because of his prowess in the slam-dunk contest, including his memorable slam over Dwight Howard.
This is unfortunate because Robinson is a better player than most people realize. He isn’t the best shooter or the most-efficient player in the league, but he brings an energy that is matched by very few players and that is been a big reason why he’s been so successful with the Bulls’ second unit this year. With Derrick Rose‘s torn ACL, the Bulls needed some energy from the point guard spot, and Kirk Hinrich wasn’t going to be that guy. Hinrich is a better shooter than Robinson and maybe even a smarter all-around player, but he lacks the flash and speed that makes Robinson so electrifying.
That’s why Robinson’s play for the second unit has been so effective. He brings a change of pace to the game and pushes the tempo of an otherwise slow Bulls offense. Considering Robinson’s passion for offensive flare and his unfortunate tendency towards poor decisions, he’s the last player you would expect to thrive in the system of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, but the two have made it work. Against all odds, their talents have actually been complimentary. Thibodeau has molded Robinson into a stronger defensive player (his defensive rating is a career-low 102), while Robinson’s flashy offense has brought some excitement to the Bulls’ offensive schemes, which can often be rather slow and dull. Thibodeau and Robinson are an odd, even illogical pairing, but they’ve worked better together than anyone would have thought.
While this has been an outstanding season for Robinson, it certainly didn’t come out of nowhere. Indeed, he is in the second year of a comeback that began last season during his time with the Golden State Warriors. After a disappointing stint with the Boston Celtics, and an extremely brief time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, during which he barely even saw the court, it looked like Robinson might be headed out of the league. He revived his career in Golden State, displaying the speed and intensity that had been absent during his time with the Celtics. He brought back the unforgettable speed that had seemingly disappeared after being traded by the Knicks.
Robinson’s duties in Golden State were fairly similar to what he’s done for the Bulls this year; run the second unit and provide instant energy and offense. He did this expertly, but since the Warriors had a poor record last season, he didn’t get much hype. Now that he’s putting on his show for a playoff team, the rest of the league has to take notice.
Does Robinson have a future in Chicago? It’s hard to say right now; perhaps when Rose returns, he’ll become redundant and once again be forced to take his act elsewhere. Still, over the past two seasons Nate Robinson has showed that he is a capable NBA point guard. He has his share of flaws, but he’s also an excellent offensive spark and a ridiculously fun player to watch. teams will likely be calling on his services for years to come.