After spending the previous fourteen games exiled to the bench by Coach Mike D’Antoni, having his agent publicly request a trade, and being fined $25,000 by the NBA for that request, Nate Robinson was given a shot at some playing time. Not only was he ready to contribute, he erupted for 41 points on 18/24 from the field and single handedly willed his team to an overtime victory against the Atlanta Hawks.
Robinson’s situation was starting to look strikingly similar to that of Stephen Jackson’s in Golden State before he was shipped out to Charlotte. Coach D’Antoni questioned Robinson’s attitude and focus; Robinson is known to be a bit erratic, for example throwing up a 3 pointer at his own basket as time expired at the end of a quarter. Robinson was benched for the reminder of that game, and was then entirely removed from D’Antoni’s rotation. As the Knicks went on a successful run, winning seven of their next ten games, Robinson was pushed farther down the bench.
Finally, on December 19th, Robinson’s agent Aaron Goodwin felt the need to step in and asked for his client to see some playing time or to be traded. “I can’t allow Nate to rot on Mike’s bench and not do anything about it. I can’t allow this to happen to his career.” The result of this request was not a trade, but the $25,000 fine levied by the NBA for what the league called, “public statements detrimental to the NBA.” Although a trade never occurred, Goodwin could not have hoped for a better resolution to his client’s benching.
His performance in Atlanta proved that despite his agent’s request to be traded, Robinson did not allow the benching for a full 30 days to affect his mindset or preparation for game action. Robinson had been working hard to stay in game shape, both mentally and physically, and when his number was called he was ready.
For Robinson and his agent Goodwin, this was especially important, because he was able to prove not only does he have the skills to provide that offensive spark off the bench that he has become known for, but that he also possesses the metal toughness to sit on the bench for 14 straight games and not allow himself to pout or give up. Instead, he consistently was the biggest cheerleader on the bench, was mentally involved in the games and patiently awaited his chance at retribution.
It is unknown whether or not there will be room for Nate Robinson on the Knicks next season; however, the qualities that he has displayed in his return will certainly bode well for him in attempting to secure a contract and a place on a team next season.