Winning in New York is certainly memorable, but losing can be too. One of my friends joked with me the other day that we've been watching the Knicks since they were horrible. "Remember, when they had Pat Cummings?"
Remember Pat Cummings?
Cummings wasn't the smoothest of Knicks in his four years in New York, but he played hard and was, by all intents and purposes, a good NBA player. Still, Cummings represented the early Patrick Ewing years, which weren't the most successful the franchise has ever seen. Those teams were pretty bad. Cummings was guilty by association.
Fans of Nate Robinson will be sure to defend the guard's tenure under Mike D'Antoni by saying the Knicks coach has problems communicating. They can point to the Stephon Marbury situation last season and Larry Hughes this year as evidence that he's a coach who gives players a raw deal. Robinson was in the coach's doghouse during a stretch that saw the Knicks play their best basketball in years in December, but fans still clamored for Nate to get in the game.
They paid for tickets to see the little guy light up the court and have the opportunity to do so Tuesday as the Celtics are in town.
Robinson is a polarizing player. His stature should mean that he has no business on an NBA floor, let alone winning dunk contests and going off on huge offensive nights.
By all admission on the surface, Robinson was a good soldier here. He kept his mouth shut during the benching and came back to explode on the Hawks down in Atlanta. The guy just wants to play ... a lot. Unfortunately, he's not getting the opportunity to showcase his talents in Boston. His minutes are spotty and he's not a favorite of Doc Rivers, it appears, in big games. With the Celtics in a critical game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Nate didn't play. In fact, Rivers set his playoff rotation and Nate is not in it.
What does that tell you?
Well, it tells me that Nate is a showman without much substance. It shows me that, due to his tenure in New York, where losing was not exactly at a premium, his experience doesn't translate in Boston, a team just a few years away from their last championship and poised to make one last effort at another.
It also tells me that Robinson hasn't done the things in Boston in his brief time there to make himself a winning player. Once again, he's handling it all pretty well. But the Celtics pride themselves on few turnovers and great man-to-man defense, which are Nate's biggest weaknesses. Come to think of it, most players who don't play all that much on really good teams have similar MOs.
So as Robinson comes back to the Garden, there will be plenty of his jerseys in the crowd along with passionate fans screaming for him to get in the game. What his future career holds is somewhat of a mystery. He's an unrestricted free agent this summer. I'd venture to guess that if a team is in the market for a showman, or a "hype man," they'd reach out to Nate. But based on what we've seen so far, one would have to guess that the organization willing to bring him in would be more concerned with putting fans in the seats than with winning games on the court.
As far as his legacy in New York is concerned, Nate should be remembered by fans as a player who played hard and played to the crowd. But, like Cummings, he'll also be guilty by association.
And for younger fans, his name may come up some five, 10 or 15 years down the road in a conversation like this one:
"I've been a Knicks fan since they were horrible. Remember, when they had Nate Robinson?"