Imagine this: A player who was such a behavioral nightmare that he could average 17.2 ppg one year and then consistently earn DNP-CD’s the following has helped to re-instill the Celtics’ sense of unity. Huh?
“The spirit is very positive right now,” Kendrick Perkins told the Boston Globe. “The moves we made with Nate, he came in and fit right in with us. Everything’s been good and we’re just trying to keep it positive.”
Kevin Garnett continued to heap praise on the Diminutive Dunker.
“Nate came here and just gave us a light of sunshine, if you will,” Garnett said. “He’s a big energy spark. He’s a positive energy and a great presence. I think it’s uniting the locker room a little bit. It’s like fresh air.”
Fresh air? Nate Robinson? The player who shot at the wrong hoop and infuriated Coach Mike D’Antoni so often that D’Antoni sat him for 14 straight games?
You’d better believe it. Robinson is like the human right trigger button. For those who don’t play Xbox, the right trigger controls turbo. A burst of speed and energy. Put him in the game, or even leave him on the bench, and his boyishness is infectious. Say what you want about Nate, but he loves to play basketball and its evident every time he steps out on the court.
That love for the game seems to be spreading to his teammates. “It’s just something you can feel,” explained Paul Pierce. As fans, we can see it, too.
We knew age would affect the Celtics, and it has. But we didn’t know how drastic those effects would be. Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen have all played below — even well below, at times — the standards we’ve come to expect from them. Everybody and their mother has been injured. Glen Davis proved being too old is one thing, but being young can hurt too. He punched his friend in the face before the season — in the front seat of a car, while his friend was driving, no less — and then told a heckler to suck something during the season (and I can assure you it wasn’t a lollipop). But perhaps the biggest effect age has had on the Celtics, greater even than poor play, immaturity and injuries, has been a lack of energy.
The Celtics have done this before. They’ve played regular season games, over 1,000 each for the Big Three, and have become bored with them. They were like I was at my summer job every year as a lifeguard. Each summer, I start off excited, and actually have a good time for a few weeks. I enjoy teaching swim lessons, and I like all the little kids. By the end of the summer, it’s terrible. I don’t want to be at work, I hate those little f—ing kids, and I want to be anywhere but at a swimming pool.
The Celtics are just like me at my summer job. They started off well, smoking teams left and right. They enjoyed playing. But they got to the point where they just didn’t want to be at the damn pool anymore. There are times when you can see, Boston simply doesn’t want to play basketball. Not the right way, at least. The C’s will go through the motions, there in body but not in spirit. Why get excited for a regular season game, when the playoffs and another championship are the only things that keep you going?
Because the regular season builds momentum and leaves you with a good seed in the playoffs. Duh. The Celtics had lost sight of that, and clearly weren’t playing basketball like they loved it. Instead, they were a team just waiting for the games to matter. Somewhere along the way, the regular season had become nothing more than a drag.
Until Nate Robinson came along, like a ball of light. Suddenly, there was a Celtic who just enjoyed basketball. Preseason, regular season, pickup games, it didn’t matter. He just wants to play games, put on a show, and win while he’s at it. I would say postseason, too, but Robinson has never played in the postseason. Still, he smiles on the court, high-fives his teammates, and was the first one off the bench to apply a flying chest-bump to Ray Allen after his game-winning three-ball the other night.
The C’s still seem bored at times. Their first 42 minutes against Washington were proof of that. But even with some unavoidable letdowns, they seem to be letting loose, having a little fun. Paul Pierce is woofing at people again. Kevin Garnett is kissing Andray Blatche on the cheek. Ray-Ray is prancing around like Jesus Shuttlesworth, nailing big shots and celebrating afterward. A pep has returned to the Celtics’ step.
Don’t forget to thank Nate Robinson, the unexpected Human Breath of Fresh Air.