Similar things have happened dozens of times during this Bulls season, but the good and bad of Nate Robinson was clearly displayed during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against Detroit.
He missed 3 shots in less than two minutes, then after Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva rebounded the third errant shot, Robinson sneaked up from behind and knocked the ball out of his grasp. It bounced to Luol Deng, who handed it back to Robinson, and roughly half a second later Robinson launched another 3-pointer.
This one swished through the net, giving the Bulls a 91-84 lead with 3:55 remaining, and they hung on to win 95-94 at the United Center.
“That’s the good thing about Nate. He always thinks he’s hot,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game.
Robinson has his own YouTube series called “State of Nate.” His all-star weekend visit to Carlos Boozer’s Miami home is Season 2, Episode 4.
With just 10 games left in the regular season, maybe it’s time to make the Case for Nate.
There’s no telling what’s going to happen to the Bulls’ roster this summer. They already have about $73 million committed to eight players for next season, which is above the current luxury-tax threshold of $70.3 million.
So the Bulls will be looking to move big salaries and create some flexibility, which is easier said than done.
Shooting guard is a mystery, since Richard Hamilton is unlikely to return and Marco Belinelli will be an unrestricted free agent. Belinelli might generate some decent interest around the league after playing well this season.
As mentioned here last week, the Bulls’ best lineup seems to be with Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler at the wing positions, so why not plan on starting those two next season?
Then with Derrick Rose coming back (probably) and Kirk Hinrich signed for another year, the best option might be to pass on a traditional shooting guard and try to re-sign Robinson.
Here’s the reasoning: Robinson might be the league’s premier X-factor, so to speak. He can come off the bench and give his team a ridiculous spark, as evidenced by going 7-for-7 from 3-point range Saturday at Dallas, or scoring 34 points against Denver, or 24 points in 26 minutes Jan. 30 at Milwaukee.
But there’s also a reason the Bulls probably won’t re-sign Robinson. Basically, he shoots too much. While his assists have increased during the past two seasons, when he thinks he’s on a roll there’s not much that can dissuade him from shooting.
Thibodeau touched on that during his postgame comments Sunday.
“That’s Nate. He’s a catalyst,” Thibodeau said. “As my former boss would say, he’s scaring both of us. The thing is, he’s very confident. You need to be confident in this league.
“I like the way he and Kirk play together. We have to find that balance, but we also have to find that balance of keeping everyone else in rhythm, too.
“Nate’s had a very good year for us, and I think he’s capable of more. I thought defensively tonight, he was very good.”
That balance of keeping everyone else in rhythm is code for “let someone else shoot once in awhile.” I’m not sure which former boss Thibodeau is talking about, but Jeff Van Gundy is always a good guess.
No doubt, Robinson comes with some issues, and the Bulls had to start him at point guard more often than expected this season, thanks to Hinrich’s injuries and Rose’s slow return. There can’t be much argument, though, that Robinson has helped more than he has hurt.
After covering the NBA for 14 seasons, it’s obvious there is extreme value to a guy who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile. With Robinson sitting on the bench, there is always a chance he can come in, needing not set up from his teammates, and turn a game around.
The Bulls have had guys in the past who can heat up in a hurry, such as John Lucas III, Ben Gordon and Jannero Pargo. Eric Piatkowski was the hot hand off the bench at one point.
No one caught fire anywhere near as often as Robinson this season. The feeling here is he should stay.
One thing seems obvious, though, he’s not going to change.
“I don’t know the future, man. I’m just playing as hard as I can,” Robinson said Sunday. “Wherever God wants me to be, I’ll be there. If it’s here, it’s here. If it’s not, I don’t know.
“I just go like a hermit crab. I go place to place if I have to. So whatever it takes to put food in my kids’ bellies and a roof over their head. It doesn’t matter to me.”
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