Nate Robinson is a self-described “big kid” so it’s ironic that Mike D’Antoni has basically given the diminutive sparkplug the coach’s version of a ‘timeout.’
The fifth-year guard has been a healthy scratch for nine straight games – with no end in sight. Although Robinson obviously wants to play, specifically for the Knicks, it has to be burning him that he can’t even get garbage time action. Meanwhile, Jonathan Bender, who was just signed off the street last week, has seen action in two games, averaging 10 points in 14.5 minutes per.
To his credit, however, Robinson hasn’t exploded publicly…yet. Those trade demands that came to light over the weekend were the words of his agent, Aaron Goodwin. Robinson, who addressed the media prior to Sunday’s tilt with the Charlotte Bobcats, said Goodman was acting on his own and that Robinson had no desire for a trade. Following yesterday’s practice, Robinson wouldn’t get into it any further, declining another sitdown with the amassed outlets.
“I said everything I had to say [Sunday],” was all he would say while fleeing for the exit.
When asked if he talked to Goodwin about this possible firestorm, Robinson quickly said, “No.”
And when asked if he planned on meeting with Goodwin, possibly later Monday afternoon, Robinson said “Yes” just as quickly.
Team president Donnie Walsh said he isn’t shopping Robinson and hasn’t had any offers since Goodwin went public. He also said he’s not “even thinking about a buyout.” Walsh did say, however, that he is comfortable staying out of this for now but agreed with the way D’Antoni was handling everything.
“All I make of this is that the rotation is working,” Walsh said. “There’s a reason not to break it up right now…which has nothing to do with Nate.”
Drama isn’t new to D’Antoni during his brief tenure in New York, so when asked about the Robinson situation, D’Antoni was rather nonchalant.
“Nobody’s in, nobody’s out [his doghouse],” said D’Antoni. “It’s just the way of the rotation right now. You only do it because you want to win and you want to do what’s best to win.”
Even Robinson backers have to admit this trimmed-down version of the Knicks’ rotation has paid dividends with Robinson being merely a high-priced mascot. This current Knicks team [10-17] doesn’t look anything like the team that started 1-9. Guys’ minutes aren’t being jerked around anymore, which means they aren’t looking over their shoulders after every little mistake. That in turn makes for a looser bunch on the floor, all knowing they have the faith of their coach.
D’Antoni thinks his new rotation is paying off.
“Guys are playing hard. Playing well,” he said. “At 1-9 guys were down a bit. We weren’t that good but it’s working out now and I’m happy for the players.”
That being said, D’Antoni acknowledged he did tell his team, particularly the reserves – and probably a mild hint to a certain guard – to always be ready.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” D’Antoni said. “Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. You just hope things work out for both [parties].”
He then added that if you’re in his system, things happen and you just have to deal with it.
“Sometimes you just need to have patience,” D’Antoni said.
Anyone who’s followed the Knicks over the years, know patience isn’t one of Robinson’s virtues. But for now, he has accepted his new role and has played the good soldier. For how much longer that lasts, however, no one knows.
-For all the newfound drama he might’ve indirectly caused, Bender isn’t even thinking about it. “I’m not thinking about cracking any rotation,” he said. “Whenever he calls my name, I’m just going out there…if I’m pleasing myself I know I can please everybody else because I’m my own worse critic.”
-Bender, 31, who partly retired young  because of degenerative knees, said he feels fine right now and is gaining confidence physically and with his game. “I’m getting more confident. It’s getting better. It’s just a little tight but I’m doing stretching daily.”