Previous ArticlesBulls remain undefeated with win over Thunder
Nate the sort of great returns to Chicago
by Sam Smith
Posted on Oct 25
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
One of the most popular players in Bulls history returned Friday in the final preseason game. He didn’t start much for the Bulls and his name won’t appear on any banners.
But the United Center audience greeted Nate Robinson warmly when he entered the game to open the second quarter.
“This is something special to me just because of the season from last year and what we did,” Robinson told reporters before the game. “It was a very special season with a great group of guys and I miss it. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t. But the guys over there, they showed me so much love. The coaching staff, the organization, fans. I had a hell of a year and it was a great run.”
Robinson, the 5-7 sparkplug guard, with Derrick Rose out all season recovering from knee surgery was a catalyst off the bench whose season peaked with one of the great playoff games ever, 23 fourth quarter points to rally the Bulls late in the fourth quarter to a three overtime win. The Bulls with Robinson in the series fighting through illness and vomiting in timeouts to win a seventh game on the road against the Nets went on to play a tough series with eventual champion Miami as Robinson in many respects symbolized the Bulls’ against-all-odds season.
Though the Bulls chose to let Robinson go, Robinson said he has no bitter feelings and is only grateful to the team and the city for the season he had, the favorite and best of his career.
“No, it wasn’t at all,” Robinson said about being disappointed leaving for Denver. “This is a business. Everybody knew I wanted to come back, but they had other things in mind. They signed a great shooter in (Mike) Dunleavy, they got a good rookie. They’ve got a great team.
“Plus,” Robinson said with a smile, “they’ve got D-Rose coming back. So why have Nate Robinson when you have D-Rose?
“I know that’s been the talk around the league. Pooh’s back healthy, looking good and he’s the man, and that’s how it should be,” said Robinson.
Asked about playing with Rose, Robinson sighed and said: “Ooh, it would have been scary. It definitely would have been scary. But you never know. Anything can happen.”
About the game Brooklyn 34-point game, Robinson said he’s heard constantly from fans about it.
“For me, I was just carrying my team and the city on my back,” Robinson said. “It was a must-win game. I was just in the zone. My teammates were feeding me. The coaches, the fans gave me energy, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates. They believed in me and it just made it easier for me to go out there and have fun. I was just having fun. Everywhere I go, they say, ‘Hell of a game.’ Just everywhere. ‘You brought a different light to the team, a lot of energy.’ Fans, Twitter, Instagram, around the city. I was walking around yesterday and I was like, ‘Wow.’ They were like, ‘Good to have you back. We miss you.’ And that’s just great, to be missed and to be loved like that, and I just hope it continues. It was great, man. Even more than any other place that I’ve ever been. Here has been the best.”
Robinson said he met with several former teammates since coming to Chicago Thursday and dined with buddy Jimmy Butler. But NBA life, he knows going to his sixth team is moving on.
“Coach (Brian) Shaw and the organization, they did a great job of going after me and getting me,” said Robinson. “For that, I’m going to do everything I can to show them how much I appreciate that and it just feels good to know that I’ve got a home here for at least two years, and I’m going to go out and play as hard as I can for as long as I can.”
But can the Peter Pan of the NBA actually grow up. Or even want to. Not that anyone has heard this one much before, but Nuggets coach Shaw has Robinson also pegged as an old hand.
“He actually falls into the leader category on this team,” said Shaw. “He’s one of our older guys. I’ve had some discussions with him about he’s at that point in his career where he has to lead by example as well.”
So how’s that working out with the man who would be a kid?
“He’s been good,” said Shaw. “The guys on the team respect him. He hits them all the time with heart over height. They know he’s had to overcome a lot of obstacles in his career because of his size. He has proven doubters wrong. He comes in every day and challenges Ty Lawson at that point guard position and just works. We’re hoping our younger guys follow his lead.
“Obviously being in Indiana last year we had some good battles with the Bulls,” said Shaw. “Nate hurt us in the games we played against the Bulls. But in particular, I saw the first round against the Nets in the playoffs. I thought he was probably the best player for the Bulls during that playoff series. When you have a guy like that who has proven he can score off the bench and plays with a lot of energy, excites the crowd, it was a no-brainer for us.”
Robinson has been hurt in preseason, but he says not to doubt him.
“I’m not 100 percent, but no excuses for me. You know that,” said Robinson. “I’m going to come in and play as hard as I can for as long as I can, have some fun and push my team to get ready for opening night. Just bring energy. Just continue to be Nate Robinson.”
Meanwhile, for the Bulls, both Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich remained out, though coach Tom Thibodeau was a bit more optimistic. Hinrich has talked about playing in the opener next week in Miami while Noah has been more uncertain with his sore groin.
“They were good today, better” Thibodeau said before the game, “I want them to go through some practices and see where they are.”
As we’ve seen, Derrick Rose is in great form, and Denver coach Brian Shaw agreed.
“I think he’s back at the level that he was when he was MVP,” said Shaw.
We’ve heard that from others this preseason. But Shaw also disclosed one of the reasons few understood but why Rose was so cautious and conservative last season. And Shaw suggested Rose was the mature one.
Shaw said he talked late last season with Rose and told Rose about onetime teammate Tracy McGrady, who came back too soon from knee surgery and it changed his career.
“Last year, I had a conversation with Derrick Rose,” Shaw said before the game. “It was later in the year in Indiana (where Shaw was an assistant coach). I talked to him about Penny Hardaway, who was a teammate of mine in Orlando. When he blew his knee out, he came back too early. He never regained the form that he had prior to the injury. I think obviously no one knows himself better than themselves. For him, doctors can give a projected date, trainers, what have you. But until you get to the point where you get comfortable physically and mentally… I’ve never had a surgery of any kind so I don’t know what it’s like. But I can imagine what you go through not being sure you’re going to be able to do what you did to that point.
“There’s a lot of pressure (to return),” agreed Shaw. “But what it comes down to is you want to come back and you don’t want to be a shell of yourself when you come back. You want to be at 100 percent and perform at the same level you’re accustomed. Some players aren’t willing to come in at a lesser point than that. Some will do everything they can to try to get back before they’re ready. That varies from player to player. I thought (the criticism of Rose) was unfair. I think he did the right thing. Although the doctors cleared him, I’m sure there have been cases where someone has been cleared to do something and they go out and injure themselves. He’s his best gauge. He had to deal with all the criticism and backlash. As long as he can handle that, I think it’s fine. You see right now the way he’s playing so far in the preseason, I think it was the right decision.”
Audio—Nuggets guard Nate Robinson on being back in Chicago, keeping up with his former Bulls teammates, and his role with Denver (10.25.2013):
Audio—Nuggets coach Brian Shaw on Nate Robinson, a conversation last season he had with Derrick Rose, and getting support from Phil Jackson (10.25.2013):
Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau provides a pregame update on Kirk Hinrich and Joakim Noah, as well as talking about his team’s progress during the preseason (10.25.2013):