AUBURN HILLS – Glenn Robinson III is to jumping what Bill Gates is to money. You’re not accurately portraying their status if you tag them as the 1 percent. They’re the one-hundredth of 1 percent.
And if you’re wondering whether the ankle injury that cost Robinson 56 games last season robbed him of any explosiveness, well …
“Recently just touched 12-2, so I’m right back jumping where I was when I came out of college,” Robinson said. “So everything’s fine.”
That would be 12 feet 2 inches – 26 inches above the rim. “Fine” seems a little tame for somebody whose return to Earth upon leaving it unaided could be timed with a calendar, but, sure, let’s go with fine. The Pistons saw enough after the All-Star break last season, when Robinson returned from tearing two ligaments in his left ankle in preseason, to prioritize him in free agency.
Dwane Casey called Robinson at 12:01 a.m. on July 1 and before the sun rose they’d agreed on a two-year deal with the Pistons holding a second-year option on the 24-year-old who spent two years at Michigan and started as a freshman in the 2013 NCAA title game. An Indiana native and the son of all-time Purdue great Glenn Robinson, signing with the Pistons felt like a homecoming. More than two months after signing, Robinson still sports an ear-to-ear grin over the fates delivering him back to Michigan.
“I think I’ve still got the same reaction (as in July),” Robinson said. “I’m very excited, anxious, ready to get going. This is like a second home to me. Playing in Ann Arbor, playing up at Michigan and getting to come back and experience it all over again on the professional level with a great team, an organization that’s looking to do big things, I’m definitely excited.”
The Pistons felt like they were getting Robinson at the right time and Robinson agrees. Players with his combination of size, athleticism – I mean, 12-2 – shooting and defensive ability rank with playmaking point guards as the most coveted asset in today’s game. The ones who hit free agency proficient in two or three of those areas usually command an eight-figure salary.
Robinson didn’t have much more than that elite athleticism to his game when he left Michigan and was picked 40th overall by Minnesota. The Timberwolves kept him on cut-down day but waived him midway through that season, which he finished in Philadelphia before spending the past three seasons in Indiana – emerging in 2016-17 as an important rotation piece.
Robinson points to going against Paul George in practice and, before that, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine in Minnesota, for hiking his skill level closer to his breathtaking athleticism.
“That really helped my game develop and grow me as a player,” he said. “It just happened that I developed my game. Every summer, I wanted to get better – if that was ballhandling, if that was shooting, I had to get better at my game at every level. That’s what got me to this point and just helping the team with the best things I can do – my shooting ability, my ability to defend and bringing that every night.”
Robinson had dinner in Las Vegas with Casey to shake hands on the free-agent deal where they talked generalities. He’s looking forward to a planned lunch with Casey soon to discuss more specifics. But he has a solid handle on what the Pistons expect from him. He’s emerged as a 40 percent 3-point shooter the past few seasons and his size should allow Dwane Casey the freedom to switch at will on defense as Toronto did under him.
“We’ve got a spread offense,” he said. “My ability to shoot and help our big guys, Dre (Andre Drummond) and Blake (Griffin), my ability to defend, those are the main things I’ve been focusing on this summer – really knocking down that shot for us, being able to make plays for others, but also defending.”
Indiana was the surprise team in the East last year, finishing with 48 wins to grab the No. 6 seed and pushing Cleveland to seven games in the first round. Robinson sees the Pistons having the same capability to be this year’s riser.
“I do. I see Blake as a superstar. He’s a really good player,” Robinson said. “Great guy, a great leader, and we need that. We have several leaders on this team. As long as we’re able to work together for the big goal – we all understand we want to make the playoffs. We want to make that drive. I think we’re ready.”