With the ups come the downs, with the smiles come the frowns. Joell Ortiz wasn’t discussing Nate Robinson when spitting those lyrics, but he might as well have been.
With Nate, it isn’t always going to be swishes and dunks. For a long time as a Celtic (or at least about 25 or so regular season games), Robinson didn’t live up to expectations. And that’s probably putting it nicely. I would see him, sweatless and wearing his warmup suit at the end of the bench, and think, “Damn it, the Celtics could use Eddie House right about now.”
Robinson had a few regular season moments in Green, sure, but 16 loud points in a meaningless game against the Charlotte Bobcats hardly made the midseason acquisition worth it. Not when House definitely would have helped out. Not when Billy Walker was balling out in New York too. Not when Robinson lost Doc’s trust — not to mention every second of playing time — by failing to pick up on the Celtics’ schemes. But the 2010 Celtics clearly weren’t built for the regular season, and so it’s tough to judge Robinson based on his up and down (and mostly down) regular season.
Not that it’s any easier to judge him based on his playoff performances. It’s not difficult to remember Robinson’s playoffs for the good moments, the big plays. After all, he put together some very nice games. He got Jason McElwain-hot in the deciding game against Orlando, then did it again against the Lakers in the “Shrek and Donkey” game. In those games, he displayed every reason why the Celtics picked him up. He can be a blast of cold air off the bench, smacking the other team in the face and changing the game with an onslaught of buckets.
But he can also disappear, especially when he’s stuck on the bench per Doc Rivers’ orders. Even in the playoffs, when Robinson turned his season around and worked his way out of the doghouse, he only played more than ten minutes in a game five times. He never played more than 16:50. He scored in double digits only thrice. All I really remember about Nate’s postseason were the two games he won for the Celtics, but things weren’t always that peachy.
Which brings me to my expectations for Nate this coming season. I could see Nate being a nightly performer off the bench, providing buckets and a change of pace every game. A training camp of learning all the plays will help. I could see him being utilized as Doc used him in the playoffs: Sub him in, see if the microwave is hot and, if he is, leave him in the game. If not, yank him. I could see him being benched again, STILL failing to match his teammates’ desire to win. I really don’t know. Nothing would surprise me.
I guess it’s because Nate’s a complicated dude. He’s no taller than Snooki, yet he’s not really a point guard. He’s not a great defender, but he always seems to try his ass off on that end of the floor. He’s a scorer by heart and job description, but he sometimes gets gun-shy. He’s a three-time slam dunk champion, but he almost never dunks in games.
Doc Rivers benched Nate late in the season and kept him from earning a $1 million bonus, but he still publicly admired Doc at every turn. Nate is seen as a little bit of a locker room cancer, but he always has a smile on his face and all his teammates seem to like him. Even Doc likes him, and Doc was the same dude who benched him and kept him from earning that extra million bucks. Do you see where I’m going with this? There’s nothing simple about Nate Robinson. I just can’t seem to figure him out.
Maybe at some point I will. Just not yet.
Until then, with the ups come the downs, with the smiles come the frowns.