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Saturday, June 1, 2013
Agent: Nate would welcome return to NYK

By Jared Zwerling

Nate Robinson, who will be an unrestricted free agent come July 1, would be open to returning to the Knicks, according to his agent, Aaron Goodwin.

"Nate's first thought would be to remain with the Bulls, but if the Knicks' opportunity presented itself, I am sure he would appreciate an opportunity to play in New York again," he told ESPNNewYork.com.

Robinson started his NBA career in New York, where he played four-and-a-half seasons before being traded to the Celtics in Feb. 2010. During his time with the Knicks, he averaged 12.5 points, 2.8 assists and nearly one steal in about 25 minutes per game.

Since then, Robinson has played for the Celtics, Thunder and Warriors, and he just wrapped up his first stint in Chicago, where he became one of the top playoff performers. Without Derrick Rose and mostly Kirk Hinrich due to injuries, Robinson took the reins at starting point guard and averaged 16.3 points, 4.4 assists and one steal in 12 postseason games. He helped lead the short-handed Bulls past the Nets in seven games in the first round, and then a Game 1 upset over the Heat.

In the playoffs, Robinson not only showed he can score on the bigger stage, but also his patience, consistency and decision-making as the main floor general were impressive. Those have always been question marks in his game. But against the Heat, he earned the respect of LeBron James, who wanted to guard him after Game 1.

Robinson will also be an attractive free agent for his many championship-level intangibles, including energy, spirit, confidence, fearlessness, hustle and leadership. Those qualities would win over the demanding, defensive-minded and old-school coach Mike Woodson.

The biggest question is: Would the Knicks be able to afford Robinson, who earned $1.15 million last season? Goodwin will likely seek a mid-level contract for his client, and the Knicks do have a taxpayer mid-level exception of $3.18 million to spend.

Whether or not Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni both return, the Knicks will at least explore the market for a younger backup point guard. Aaron Brooks (team option), Will Bynum, A.J. Price and Sebastian Telfair might be available, and Shane Larkin (University of Miami), Pierre Jackson (Baylor) and Nate Wolters (South Dakota State) could be free at the Knicks' pick (No. 24) in the draft.

But Robinson is arguably the best, most affordable point guard in the free-agent class. The Knicks, however, will need to evaluate how they're going to use Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, who will likely re-sign, next season. The Knicks envision Shumpert handling the ball more, and with Smith coming off the bench, could he play alongside Robinson, who's also known as an instant scorer entering a game?

If Robinson continues to develop running a team, he could help Smith, and others, score more easily and consistently next season. He would also help the Knicks play at a faster pace. Imagine Robinson-to-Smith alley-oops in transition -- that would sure rock the Garden crowd. The Knicks' offense took a major step back in the playoffs because they couldn't get enough deep-paint penetration. That's Robinson game -- and a whole lot more.

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