- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- After struggling over the Chicago Bulls' first three preseason games to find any kind of rhythm, Nate Robinson received words of encouragement from plenty of people. It seems that two particular groups put his mind at ease: His teammates, and his children. The point guard took those words to heart, both on and off the floor, delivering in a big way on Tuesday night in place of injured starter Kirk Hinrich.
"I was kind of hard on myself (about) making shots and guys are just like, 'Just play, have fun. It will come back.'" Robinson said Tuesday after scoring 24 points and dishing out 13 assists in a 100-94 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. "I worked on my jump shot a lot and I was kind of disappointed in myself. But I talked to my kids the other day and they were like, 'It's OK, daddy. We still love you no matter what.' So that kind of helped me out today just having happy thoughts and just going out there playing and having fun and I did that."
Robinson's ability to have fun on the floor has never been in question. After making big plays he usually throws his arms into the air as if he was an airplane. On this particular night, he through an alley-oop off the backboard, something he said he won't do again for fear of the wrath of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. But it's clear that Robinson is at his best when he's having fun … and he was having plenty of that with his new teammates.
"I was just really trying to get guys involved, finding right spots, and they did a great job of making me look good," Robinson said. "But it was a team effort, man. They made shots and we played great defense as a team. And it was fun."
As a new leader of Bench Mob 2.0, the Bulls needed their backup point guard to have a night like this, as much for the organization's sake as for the veteran guard himself. Over the past three games Robinson had 10 turnovers and really struggled to find his shot at times.
"He has put a lot of work into it," Thibodeau said. "I thought the last game he was very good defensively and tonight he made another step. He was very under control, hit shots, but we still have a long way to go. We still have things to clean up."
Robinson's teammates were impressed by the way the small and powerful guard led the team in Hinrich's absence.
"It was fun, it was exciting," Bulls guard Rip Hamilton said. "I wanted to try and get him going, just make easy plays out there. When I came off screens, he put the ball right where I wanted the ball … he was awesome."
Hamilton believes that Robinson has the ability to be more than just a scorer -- a guy who can get everybody else involved.
"All day," Hamilton said. "The one thing when playing with him, I tell him, 'I still expect you to be aggressive, because the more aggressive you are, the better it is for me.’ He was aggressive, he made shots, he passed to the open guy, he got guys open and things like that. I thought he was excellent."
Never at a loss for confidence, Robinson knows that Thibodeau will probably be most proud of the fact that he didn't turn the ball over.
"I didn't force anything," he said. "I just let everything happen and it just seemed like guys were just wide open for some reason and I was just making the right play."
Skiles has no hard feelings toward Hinrich: Scott Skiles tried to get Hinrich to come play for the Bucks, but the veteran decided to sign with his former team. It was a decision that Skiles says he understood.
"I wouldn't say I was disappointed," Skiles said before the game. "I understood, We talked and then we talked after he kind of decided what he wanted to do, so I understood. He was going to be able to come here and start while Derrick Rose) was out and who knows? Maybe he'll continue to start when Derrick comes back. Maybe they'll start together, I don't know. A place he's comfortable with, (he) has a home here … we were battling some odds, that's for sure. But we had some good talks, I totally understand. I wasn't disappointed, we felt like we could use him for sure, but I understood."
The last word: Skiles, on if the Bulls are still a threat without Rose: "I think that's a question for Tom. That's up to them. I've got my own issues."
Nate Robinson got a much-needed lift with a 24-point, 13-assist outing.