Nate Robinson wasn’t exactly killing it. Almost as soon as he stepped on the court, he had already fouled a jump shooter and then picked up a technical foul. I sat there on my couch, screaming my head off and cursing Robinson. The technical foul wasn’t at all deserved, but that didn’t stop me. “Why stop at one tech?” I begged the referee. “Give him another! Get him the hell out of there!”
A couple minutes later, Robinson left Eddie House wide open to help on Udonis Haslem. House drained the three, prompting Craig Sager to ask Doc Rivers how the Celtics could stop House. “Guard him,” Rivers replied. “It would be nice if somebody guarded him.” And who had left him open to encourage Rivers’s sarcastic response? Umm, Nate.
Not that everything was bad about Nate’s first half. He made one nice drive and dish to Semih Erden, and nailed a couple jumpers too. But his normal assortment of bad decisions still left a lot to be desired. Nate wasn’t playing horribly, but he wasn’t playing what Rivers refers to as “Celtics basketball” either.
The way Doc told it to the Boston Globe, it sounds as if Nate wanted to apologize for his blunders.
“Nate at half came up to me and wanted to talk,” Rivers said. “I said, ‘Look, I’m done now. It’s what you do for the second half. We’re going to move on and you’re going to play for us.’”
Rivers’s reaction reminded me of something my grandfather used to say when something bad happened: “Next play.” In other words, you can’t worry about anything that happened in the past. Let it go and move on. Rivers might as well have told Nate, “You haven’t been great so far this year. So what? We still trust you.”
Rivers’s quick semi-pep talk worked. The second half showed a different Nate Robinson. Gone were the bad decisions. Gone was the hesitant play. Gone was the need to apologize. Robinson hit a tear-drop in the lane to quell a Heat run. He drove hard to the hoop and finished right at Joel Anthony’s chest. Simply put, he cut out the dumb stuff and kept the good.
Robinson clearly has the talent to make that type of impact every night. So far, at least, that hasn’t happened.
“I kind of tease myself and my teammates about me not being who I really am,’’ Robinson said. “Today I showed up in spurts, but I just think as time goes on the game will come back. I haven’t been making a lot of shots, but the effort and everything is going to continue to be there.’’
As time goes on Robinson’s game will come back, says Robinson. Yesterday’s second half was a great start. Just ask Doc Rivers.
“He was terrific.”