Last Second Shot Part Of Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood
NEW YORK—- All it took was one shot. With four quarters and 4:59 of overtime in the books at Madison Square Garden and the clocking fast approaching all zeros, Nate Robinson drilled the biggest shot of his young and promising career, launching a three pointer that seemed to fly as high as the rafters before finding nothing but net.
Despite playing in only his 12th career game, the rookie point guard out of Washington gave the Knicks a buzzer beating 105-102 overtime victory over the first place Philadelphia 76ers. For New York, the win was their first all season against an Eastern Conference opponent. For Robinson, the shot was the biggest he made since he called the Pac-10 Conference his home.
“My sophomore year in college I made the game tying shot against Oregon State,” said Robinson. “It felt great, but it didn’t feel like this. I knew it would be good, I felt it in my heart when it went up.”
The 21-year-old lightening bolt was a long way from Washington, and not just in proximity. In addition to playing over 30 minutes for the first time in his professional career, head coach Larry Brown assigned him to cover Allen Iverson, one of the most explosive players in the game.
“I’ve been watching him since I was 11 years old,” said Robinson. “I know his moves from watching him. I looked up to him.”
Knowing his moves did not help stymie “The Answer” Allen Iverson, who scored a game high 40, including the game tying 3-pointer that looked like it would extend the contest to double overtime before Robinson’s last second heroics. Still, Brown was satisfied with the play of his young point guard.
“There’s no way we would have won this game without him,” he said. Nate did a lot of good things. He also had to guard a special player.”
Cracking the rotation has not been so easy for the 5”9 Seattle native. Robinson has yet to start a game, and Brown recently called him a “highlight film” instead of a true point guard. Gradually, the 2005 first round draft selection has received more minutes and more freedom to take shots. He responded to the extra playing time against Philadelphia by scoring a career-high 17 points while also adding six rebounds and two seats.
“I’m in a learning process,” said Robinson after the game. “There is plenty of time for me to be molded into what coach wants to be.”
The learning curve has been steep at times. The former All-American was only 2-6 on his three point attempts while shooting 7-19 overall.
After one ill advised shot, veteran teammate Malik Rose talked to Robinson one-on-one to impart some wisdom on shot selection. “Malik just told me to slow down,” he said. “He said I’m doing a good job, just keep playing hard.”
It has been difficult getting playing time from a guard pool that includes such big money players such as Stephon Marbury, Quentin Richardson, and Jamal Crawford.
For all his shortcomings, Marbury has been one of the best offensive players on the team, but Robinson should be getting more time ahead of the other two unless their play starts to pick up.
Brown will not simply bench players with such large contracts for a long period of time, but willingness to use a three guard setup shows a desire to get the rookie on the court more often.
Despite his size, Robinson showed why there was such a buzz around him in the summer leagues, throwing down a hard slam dunk on a play that was whistled dead. It might not have counted, but the play electrified the sold out Garden crowd.
“I was begging for the refs not to call a foul, but I was going to dunk on the play anyway. I’ve been dying to get one of those and hopefully soon I’ll get one (that counts).”
In Picture, Nate Robinson is hoisted in the air by one of his Knicks’ teammates after hitting the game winning shot against Philadelphia last Saturday. (AP/Frank Franklin II)