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updated: 4/28/2013 8:42 PM

Robinson has paid big dividends for Bulls

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  • Chicago Bulls' Taj Gibson (22) and Nate Robinson (2) celebrate a basket against the Brooklyn Nets during the second overtime in Game 4 of their first-round NBA basketball playoff series Saturday, April 27, 2013, in Chicago. The Bulls won 142-134 in three overtimes.

      Chicago Bulls' Taj Gibson (22) and Nate Robinson (2) celebrate a basket against the Brooklyn Nets during the second overtime in Game 4 of their first-round NBA basketball playoff series Saturday, April 27, 2013, in Chicago. The Bulls won 142-134 in three overtimes.
    Associated Press

  • The Chicago Bulls bench including Nate Robinson (2) and Joakim Noah, center right, celebrates a basket against the Brooklyn Nets during the third overtime in Game 4 of their first-round NBA basketball playoff series Saturday, April 27, 2013, in Chicago. The Bulls won 142-134 in three overtimes.

      The Chicago Bulls bench including Nate Robinson (2) and Joakim Noah, center right, celebrates a basket against the Brooklyn Nets during the third overtime in Game 4 of their first-round NBA basketball playoff series Saturday, April 27, 2013, in Chicago. The Bulls won 142-134 in three overtimes.
    Associated Press

 
 

This story has been rehashed before, but it's now even more relevant.

Nate Robinson -- former college cornerback, three-time dunk champion -- was in such low demand as an NBA free agent last summer, he took a non-guaranteed, minimum-salary deal to join the Bulls on July 31. Some news sources speculated that he'd be released in January before his contract became fully guaranteed.

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He's been bailing out the Bulls all season and took that role to another level with his 34-point performance in Saturday's triple-overtime game against Brooklyn. Robinson hit 9 of 11 shots while scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter and rallied the Bulls from 14 points down with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Asked if he pushed for the signing of Robinson last summer, coach Tom Thibodeau shared the credit.

"I knew him. Gar (Forman) and John (Paxson) really liked him," Thibodeau said Sunday at the Berto Center. "They thought he would fit a need for us and he has. He's done his job."

Thibodeau coached Robinson during a half-season with the Celtics in 2010, which ended in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The party line on the 5-fot-9 sparkplug is he'll shoot a team into games and shoot a team out of games. But the so-called "Bad Nate" has made only a few brief cameos this season. Robinson's contributions have been overwhelmingly positive.

"The thing about Nate is -- again, maybe if I didn't have the previous experience with him, it would have been more challenging," Thibodeau said. "There's more good to Nate than there is bad. He usually responds well if there's a mistake that occurs along the way. He's character, but he's a big-time catalyst for our team. He makes things happen out there and made a lot of big shots for us."

Robinson's teammates seem to have his back. They did their part in Game 4 by getting some defensive stops down the stretch, while letting Robinson come off screens by Joakim Noah and perform some spectacular freelance.

Late in the regular season, Robinson scored 35 points against New York, 35 against Denver and hit 7 of 7 shots from 3-point range at Dallas. Rising to the occasion has become a routine occurrence.

"That's who he is -- instant offense and instant energy," teammate Jimmy Butler said. "You want Nate on your team."

Added Kirk Hinrich: "He's a special talent the way he can score and get his shot off. He's been doing it for us all year. Especially when we're out there together, he knows he can do his thing and play his game."

What's been obvious this season is Robinson, 28, has grown as a player over time. Now he's a mix of savvy NBA veteran and freak athlete.

"Even from a few years ago in Boston, he's a lot different now than he was then," Thibodeau said.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

• Follow Mike's Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls and check out his All Bull blog at dailyherald.com.

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