There are very few certainties in life. And maybe even fewer in the NBA. But if you’re watching the Celtics on a nationally televised broadcast and Nate Robinson misses an ill-advised three-pointer, you can pretty much bet the house that one of the commentators is going off on a rant of some sort.
“That’s not the shot the Celtics needed. Doc Rivers can’t be too happy with that type of decision making. This isn’t New York, anymore. He’s playing with four Hall of Famers. Blah, blah, blah.”
Then Nate will come down and hit three-pointers on two consecutive possessions and all-of-a-sudden it’s “Wow! What a great scoring option for the Celtics off the bench.”
Last night we saw a classic Nate Robinson performance. He played 21 minutes, shooting 3-7 from the field, including 3-6 from three-point range. All 9 of his points came within a 6-minute span during the second quarter, providing a big spark for the C’s.
Nate took some very intelligent shots – coming off screens and late in the shot-clock. And he took some not-so-intelligent shots, such as when he bricked a three-pointer on a 2-on-1 fast break, causing Reggie Miller to pull out the script and give that aforementioned monologue.
So that begs the question…how much freedom should Nate Robinson have in the Celtics’ offense? Does Doc simply allow him to be a scorer when he’s on the floor, meaning you’re going to have to take the good with the bad? Or does he tell Nate to be a distributor and to execute the half-court offense, perhaps limiting Nate’s frequent scoring outbursts.
The ideal answer here would be: Nate needs to find a balance. When he’s playing with the starters, let’s try to avoid firing up shots with 19 seconds left on the shot clock. When he’s with the second-unit, an open three-pointer is arguably their best look.
But Nate Robinson wouldn’t be Nate Robinson if that were so easy. To his credit, he has adapted his game very well in the 46 games he’s been in a Celtic’s uniform. He’s a great teammate, he’s a motivator, and he’s been a great shooter in his time here so far. Last season, Nate shot 41% from three-point range during his time with the Celtics. This year, despite that horrible start, he’s already worked his three-point shooting percentage up to 38%.
At the end of the day, Nate brings a lot more to the team when he’s allowed to be himself. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there aren’t any games that stick out in my mind where Nate cost this team a win because of his erratic play. However, I can definitely remember games when Nate was the spark that put the C’s over the top. He brings a unique energy to the team that not all players possess. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very impressed with Marquis Daniels’ play this season, but he’s not the type of player that is going to get the second-unit fired up as the Celtics are trying to make a run in the 2nd quarter. Nate is exactly that type of player, and Doc knows it.
So, are there going to be times when we cringe at some of the shots that Nate takes? Yes. And is it unfortunate that we lose 30 seconds of our life every time some NBA analyst reminds us of Nate’s shooting habits? Absolutely. But I’m prepared for it, and I think the Celtics are better off because of it.