J.R. Smith is a mistake-prone, immature young bench player with a tendency to get in his coach’s doghouse. He can be hot as a pistol one day and cold as the Vancouver snow the next. But he can score buckets, and change games.
Kind of like what the Celtics will soon see from Nate Robinson.
If you’re a Celtics fan wondering what Robinson can bring to the table, look no further than yesterday’s game against the Denver Nuggets for your answer. Robinson didn’t even play, but Smith brought the Denver Nuggets exactly what the Celtics hope Robinson will supply their second unit; buckets, buckets, and more buckets.
Smith was actually pretty awful for most of the game. He chucked up a bunch of bad shots, forced penetration on a few occasions, and couldn’t get anything going. His one make, prior to the fourth, was a launched 30-footer with Tony Allen directly in his mug. He even fouled Marquis Daniels 35 feet from the hoop with a second left to go in the second quarter. The way he forced a ton of plays, needlessly wasted possessions, and sometimes had absurd brain farts reminded me of a far more talented Tony Allen. (An apology goes out to Tony; he’s been a lot more controlled this year.)
But, as many comparisons as there are between Allen and Smith, Tony just doesn’t have the ability Smith does. Specifically, Tony can’t fill it up, in a hurry, and completely change the complexion of a game. Smith got hot and the game was over. 16 fourth-quarter points, including four three-pointers, broke the Celtics’ back. A nine-point lead to start the quarter ballooned to 17, and it was due in large part to the exploits of the immature gunslinger out of St. Benedict’s Prep School in New Jersey.
Smith was scintillating, scorching, and unstoppable in the fourth quarter, but Doc Rivers wasn’t too surprised. (CSNNE)
“That is what he does,” Rivers said. “J.R. Smith is a weapon. We said at the beginning of the game that he is the X-factor; he always is. When he scores, it is really difficult to beat them because Chauncey is going to play well and so is Carmelo (Anthony).”
What Smith did is exactly what the C’s are hoping Robinson will provide. (Just don’t let the two get into an altercation.) They know he’ll take some ill-advised shots. They understand he will sometimes make head-scratching plays and goof around at the wrong time. Doc Rivers will probably want to wring Nate’s neck from time to time, maybe even once or twice a game. But Nate is the type of player who can create plays, change games, and bust wins wide open.
Rivers understands that, and doesn’t want to limit any of Nate’s aggressiveness. (Boston Globe)
“I want him to be free and I want him to be aggressive,’’ Rivers said. “That’s when he’s at his best, so there’s no reason for me to try to screw that up.
“I do know he’s competitive, and hopefully that comes out. I can’t wait to get him and to get to work with him. I want him looking at the basket, I don’t want him thinking about the X2Z play. I want him to look at the rim, and that’s why we’re bringing him in here.’’
Nate doesn’t need any prodding to look at the rim, even if it must strain his neck to look all the way up there. Nate is never shy about firing up shots.
Sometimes, his shot selection can be shaky. Sometimes, he’ll be off, maybe even way off. But he’ll create opportunities, and when he starts to hit… boy oh boy, the Celtics will be tough to stop.
When Nate gets going, he’s as good a scorer as just about any in the league. Is there any other Celtic capable of pouring in 40 points off the bench? I’m as big a Marquis Daniels fan as anybody, and I think he’s a great addition to the C’s, but it might take him a couple weeks to score 40. Same goes for Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, and anybody else on the Boston bench.
Of all the Celtics — including the starters — Nate will instantly join only Ray Allen and Paul Pierce as players with the ability to create his own shot off the dribble. (Rondo could also create his own shot, but doesn’t have to. When you’re so fast — and such a bad shooter — that everyone plays ten feet off of you, it’s unnecessary to create one. Instead of creating shots, Rondo drives to the hoop. Not a bad thing, just different.) Eddie House can shoot the hell out of the ball, but if the defense plays him tight he’s just as likely to dunk as he is to get off a shot. Robinson doesn’t have that problem. He can create his own shot, just about whenever he wants to. He can also dunk, slightly better than the rim-rattling slams House provided.
Still, we’ll have to be patient with Robinson. Life with Nate won’t always be rosy. As hot as he can sometimes be, he can also be that cold. He’s a confident scorer, but sometimes so confident he’ll take a jumper with a hand — or two — in his face. He’ll sometimes over-dribble, and he’ll occasionally do something that will make you think, “Why?” It’s important to remember though, especially when his contested jumpers are clanking off the back rim, that Robinson is a game-changer. Nate Robinson will help the Celtics, and he’ll be a weapon off the bench the likes of which Boston hasn’t had in a long time.
Doc Rivers said J.R. Smith is Denver’s X-factor. When Smith plays well, it’s tough for anyone to beat the Nuggets.
Now, the C’s have their own X-factor. A miniature one.
And you can call him Nate.