By Chris Sheridan
It has been 97 days since the Knicks traded Nate Robinson to the Boston Celtics for Bill Walker, Eddie House and J.R. Giddens, which has given Robinson some time to appreciate the difference in cultures of the two franchises.
In New York, he clashed with coaches Larry Brown and Mike D'Antoni and was an expendable spare part by mid-February as the Knicks continued their two-year quest to clear salary cap room to pursue LeBron James and another max free agent. (Side note, Chad Ford has a MUST, MUST-read column today on what the Knicks are thinking).
In Boston, things haven't worked out as Robinson had hoped. He has fallen behind forward Tony Allen on the point guard depth chart, he missed out on a $1 million bonus, and his best work in the playoffs was as a towel-waver until he logged 2 minutes in Game 4 against Orlando on Tuesday night and played fairly under control (at least by his standards).
I reported back on Dec. 21 that Robinson was seeking a trade to the Celtics, and he waived his trade veto and his Larry Bird rights to get to Boston when the deal got done Feb. 18. But over his first 60 days with the Celtics, Robinson learned the hard way that on a team laden with veterans, there is zero tolerance for what was tolerated in New York -- Robinson's proclivity to break away from the offense and freelance.
I caught up with N8 last night in Boston and asked him to compare the two team cultures he has experienced in his five NBA seasons.
"It is (different), but you've got to have that Charles Darwin theory, survival of the fittest, and you have to learn how to adapt," Robinson told ESPN.com. "I've learned to adapt. I'm happy."
The Knicks are expected to let Giddens walk, and they'll see if there is any use for House in a sign-and-trade package between July 1 and July 8 and renounce his rights if there isn't. New York holds a Aug. 1 team option on Walker's $854,389 salary for 2010-11, meaning he will be playing for his job in the Las Vegas Summer League. D'Antoni has said a big factor will be whether Walker sheds some weight.
As for Robinson, his free agent value could still be impacted by what he accomplishes over the remainder of the postseason. When the Celtics made their final trip of the season to Madison Square Garden, Rivers predicted Robinson would "win at least one playoff game for us."
Reminded of that comment Monday at the Celtics practice facility in Waltham, Mass., Rivers did not back off it.
"It may be this series, it may be the next series. I really believe Nate and Marquis (Daniels) at some point are going to help us. It may be one possession, but they're going to help us.''
Robinson ran the second unit at practice in the three-day lull between Games 2 and 3 as Allen rested his sore foot, and Rivers seemed genuinely pleased. That may help explain why Robinson got the early call Monday night when Rajon Rondo got off to a slow start against the Magic. Robinson missed his only shot, an 18-footer, during a 65-second stretch of playing time early in the second quarter, then executed a terrific wraparound entry pass to get Kevin Garnett a layup while playing the final 64 seconds of the first half.
"It (the trade) was fine with us. We have another insurance policy and Nate's been great," Rivers said. "He's been great in the locker room. He's been great on the bench. All the things that you heard that he wasn't, he's been. And that's good.
"But Rondo's playing so well, and Nate has been a player in the past that needs minutes," Rivers said. "Well, it's tough to get minutes from that guy (Rondo) right now, and Nate understands that.''
An objective observer would have to conclude that Robinson's value has decreased since he was traded from the Knicks, but he'll garner interest on the free agent market as a potential value buy. He did, after all, average 17.2 points and went off for a career-high 45 points against Portland during D'Antoni's first season in New York.
"I just hope it (the future) is bright no matter where I'm at, no matter where I am," Robinson said. "I've just got to know that right now I'm in school, I'm a student of the game, and I've got to learn by watching Rondo, Ray, watch Paul, watch Tony, watch every guy that gets in the game, and figure out where I can be better, then where I can be in a position to play heavy minutes and help any team compete. But right now I'm just learning."