Eighth in a series
Maybe it's a stretch to suggest signing with the Bulls was a life-changing moment for Nate Robinson.
But it is true that before this season, Robinson never played more than 17 minutes in an NBA playoff game. He played a small role in the 2010 Finals for Boston, then didn't see much court time in Oklahoma City.
Last season, Robinson posted some decent numbers for Golden State, setting a career-high with 4.5 assists per game. The rest of the league was so impressed, Robinson resorted to signing a one-year deal with the Bulls for minimum salary, which wasn't even fully guaranteed.
Roughly 10 months later, Robinson is in demand. He served as a guest analyst on NBA TV and a guest Tweeter for TNT in the past week while the league built a television ad around his overtime bank shot against Brooklyn.
He went from out of sight, out of mind to a pretty big deal, thanks to his association with the Bulls. Now, after averaging 16.3 points in the playoffs for the Bulls, two questions surround Robinson:
• Will he be in higher demand around the league as an unrestricted free agent?
• Will the Bulls even try to extend this successful collaboration with Robinson?
The first question is difficult to answer. Robinson arrived in the NBA in 2005 as a 5-foot-9 novelty; a loud, brash leaper who won the dunk contest three times and averaged 17.2 points for the Knicks in 2008-09.
Since then, he's done what serious NBA players should do: He's matured, gotten smarter, changed his game, and tried to show he deserves a long-term contract.
Because of his size and tendency to shoot early and often, it's not clear what sort of offers he might receive this summer. Teams might still proceed with caution when it comes to Robinson.
Since the Bulls have crossed the luxury-tax threshold for next season, they might be priced out of contention. Unless they clear salary, the Bulls can only offer Robinson -- or any free agent -- no more than the taxpayer midlevel exception of $3.18 million.
The Bulls may not try to bring him back. He essentially played Derrick Rose's role late in games this season, and with Rose returning, that opening is filled. Plus they have a backup point guard in place (Marquis Teague), and Kirk Hinrich is under contract for another season.
Another issue is Robinson's reputation in the locker room. He's happy when he's playing well, but there is concern about what sort of noise he'd make if he doesn't play as much. That's something the Bulls thought about all season.
That said, a strong argument can be made to bring Robinson back, if they can get him on another one-year deal. It's no secret the Bulls are setting the stage to retool the roster in 2014. But given the state of the NBA, it's also reasonable to think the Bulls can be a Finals contender next season with Rose and their nucleus.
So why not try to keep Robinson in his instant offense role and see how he and Rose work together late in games? Dallas won the title two years ago with a smaller shooting guard, Jason Terry, serving as the team's second scoring option to Dirk Nowitzki. Maybe Robinson would have similar success with Rose.
He might be out of their price range, but when it comes to a short-term, second-scoring option, the Bulls would be hard-pressed to come up with anyone better than Robinson next season.
Next man up: Nazr Mohammed