Nate Robinson writing next NBA chapter with Nuggets
Veteran point guard brings scoring, passion to Denver
Through the first four years of his NBA career, Nate Robinson enjoyed stability that can be fleeting in professional sports.
Playing for the New York Knicks, he was a key contributor off the bench and made a push for the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2008-09 when he averaged a career-high 17.2 points, 4.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds.
It took just one day to drastically alter his career path.
On Feb. 18, 2010, Robinson was part of a five-player trade between the Knicks and Boston Celtics. His nomadic existence began, and his survival instincts kicked in.
Over the next 29 months, Robinson would be traded by the Celtics, waived by the Oklahoma City Thunder, signed by the Golden State Warriors and signed by the Chicago Bulls.
“I guess this is just my identity of who I am,” Robinson said. “Nothing’s been given to me easy. I have to work for every contract that I had. God blesses people differently. For me, he’s put different challenges in my way.”
Robinson’s work in Chicago, particularly in the Eastern Conference playoffs, was first-rate. Given an opportunity to play due to injuries to point guards Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, he helped the Bulls beat Brooklyn in the first round before falling to the Miami Heat in the conference semifinals.
With Rose expected to return from a knee injury and Hinrich set to return as the backup, the Bulls were content to let Robinson go as a free agent this summer. Nearly four weeks into free agency, he found a new home with the Denver Nuggets.
“One team’s trash is another team’s treasure. That’s something that I heard a lot of vets say over the years,” Robinsons said. “I’m just happy to be here. They gave me an opportunity to be part of this team and the movement that they’re going towards.
“Our goal is to be champions. We have a great group of non-all-star type players. We have all team players. Sometimes less is more. If you find your niche and find ways to win games and be in the hunt to win the championship, teams are going to fear you.”
Robinson, 29, said new coach Brian Shaw played a big role in his decision to sign with Denver. He appreciated Shaw’s straightforward approach and honesty when talking about how playing time will be distributed. Ty Lawson is the incumbent starting point guard, with Robinson in line to provide scoring and playmaking on the second unit.
“This is (Shaw’s) first time here, this is my first time here and we’re going to make it happen,” Robinson said. “We’re going to make it work. I have no hard feelings toward the Bulls. I had a great year with a great group of guys. Same thing with the Warriors. I had a great year with them.”
The Nuggets will be Robinson’s sixth team in five seasons, a fact that raises questions in some NBA circles. It’s a fact that Robinson shrugs off with ease.
“People say he’s this type of player, this type of guy, he’s this, he’s that. People don’t know Nate Robinson until you’ve been around me,” he said. “God is the only person that can judge me. I really could care less what anybody else thinks of me. I think that’s really helped me out over the years.
“I’m human like anybody else. I’m going to make mistakes, but the good outweighs the bad. I accept my faults and my strengths and I move on.”
At 5-foot-9, Robinson relies upon his quickness and shooting ability to succeed in a league where the average player stands 6-7. His biggest assets, though, are his passion for the game and desire to prove people wrong.
They are characteristics instilled by his father at a young age and cultivated while excelling on the football field in Seattle and Oakland. He attended the University of Washington on a football scholarship and played cornerback for one year before pursuing basketball full-time.
“The football mentality has been embedded in me since I was a little boy,” Robinson said. “My father taught me to never back down. He tells me to never pick a fight but never run from one. That’s something I’ve always done. I’m never going to back down regardless of how big a guy is.”
When he needs a reminder, Robinson goes to the camera roll on his phone. In addition to pictures of his three children, there is a shot of his one of his favorite sayings.
You can’t force a person to show you respect, but you can always refuse to be disrespected.
“That’s how I carry myself and it’s worked for me over the years,” he said. “So far, I have a great story to tell.”
And the next chapter begins in Denver.