The Fate of Nate
I must say I find it very interesting the amount of people that are so surprised by how long it took Nate Robinson to find a new home in free agency. Living in the New York area when he broke into the league, as a Knicks fan, I got to see Robinson's act everyday. Granted he was much younger at the time but I was glad as a Knicks fan when he was finally traded. While I didn't always agree with Mike D'Antoni's approach to handling players he has issues with, I couldn't fault him either for not wanting anything more to do with Robinson.
During his years in NY, he was constantly making a name for himself with things that had little to do with being a mature winning basketball player. He won three Dunk Contests while in NY & many younger fans' hearts in the process. NY fans loved seeing a guy his height show toughness & grit. Then there's the other side of Robinson that drives coaches & organizations crazy like him tweeting about getting pulled over by the police, while he was in the middle of getting pulled over by the police. After a couple of coaching changes in NY he ended up with Mike D'Antoni & they went through a difficult stretch together which was exemplified by his being benched for 14 straight games. His best moment as a Knick may have come on January 1, 2010 when he redeemed himself by coming off the bench following that 14 game benching & scoring 41 points in a Knicks victory.
Therein lies the crux of my point though. In all the years since that game, his next best moment was perhaps last year's playoffs. He had flashes here or there in between then but, let's take a look at some things. Since he left the Knicks, he's played for Doc Rivers, Scott Brooks, Mark Jackson & Tom Thibodeau. All coaches whom their players seem to love playing for yet none of those coaches brought him back after more than 1 season of coaching him. His play last year in Derrick Rose's absence was phenomenal yet Thibodeau & the Bulls didn't even make him an offer of any sort. All of that to me, speaks volumes about how he wears on a coach & how he's perceived by franchises.
Whatever that perception is, right or wrong, he only has himself to blame. He still is a highly emotional player which can inspire fans & teammates at times but can also get him in trouble as he lead his team with 11 technical fouls last year. Now you can argue that his size on defense is a liability & that may have been a factor in all of this but what team doesn't need a guy who can come off the bench & be instant offense? For a team like the Knicks, with reigning Sixth Man of the Year JR Smith out for a stretch from knee surgery, they didn't even make him an offer when they had a chance to financially. It seems they'd rather take a look at guys like Toure Murry & Bobby Brown both of the D-League & Euro League respectively, than deal with Nate. With the job Mike Woodson with Smith, you'd think the Knicks would be confident that Woodson could have a similar affect on Robinson, but we'll never know.
I'll be curious to see how new Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw deals with Robinson. I can't help but think that every team that had Robinson before, including the Knicks, must've felt like their head coach could handle him. Bare in mind, when the Knicks drafted him, Larry Brown was their head coach who once famously dealt with Allen Iverson. As I said though, all of those coaches & teams either traded him or allowed him to walk in free agency without ever making him an offer to come back. For Shaw, with a point guard rotation of Ty Lawson, Andre Miller & Robinson, there's a definite lack of size defensively beyond Miller who they seem to be moving on from. Both Robinson & Lawson are capable of playing the SG position but will Shaw dare to match them together & go with an under 6' back court?
My point to all this is, when you take a long hard look at Robinson beyond his skills & what he brings to a team on the court, you can't escape the fact that evidently teams are not convinced that giving him a long-term deal won't prevent him from turning back into the immature younger version of himself. Truth be told the only real aspect of his behavior that appears to have grown is his ability to lead a team as a shoot-first PG. The problem is though, in today's NBA, that type of PG is usually the starter, but if you're bringing Robinson in to be your starter then you have deeper issues than just having to cope with all of his antics.
It used to drive me crazy talking to people whose opinions I had come to respect trying to convince me that the Knicks somehow needed a guy like Robinson both then & now. I don't argue that Nate is a tough gritty player when focused, but I guess I saw the same things so many coaches & organizations did as well. When you take all of that into consideration, I don't believe it should've come as a surprise to anyone at how long it took him to find a new home.