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For a long time, Nate Robinson has been a welcome diversion.  Unfortunately, that’s all.  His success was always side by side with the prerequisite grain of salt as I looked for subtle ways to invalidate his glory.  No more.  I’m ready for the Nate Robinson revolution, and — friends, Romans, countrymen — I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

The stigma of the short point guard is a painful one.  No player faces a steeper hill, nay, mountain to climb to NBA competence.  On top of that, there is no Myth of the Next Jordan/Kobe, or the next Maravich, or the next Garnett.  There is the Mythology of the Little Man.  If you can dunk, you are Spud Webb.  If you can’t, you are Earl Boykins.  The confines of Nate Rob’s world are bench sparkplug at best and sideshow at the most demeaning.  If given the proper opportunity, he’s ready to make that abnormally low glass ceiling obsolete.

I think the first step would be abandoning the dunk contest.  A combination of his hundred and twenty attempts three years ago and his singular dunking quirk doubling as a punchline has turned him into a fan favorite, but also a player of limited scope.  I’m not clipping his wings; I’m just rethinking how he should fly.  It’s not a new concept: Gerald Green distanced himself from the contest in a similar way.  But whereas Green has the physical tools necessary to develop into the typical high-scoring hybrid swingman, Nate Rob is short, a scoring point guard, and a Knickerbocker.  Consider the scales tipped.

I was ready for Nate to be the Knicks’ sixth man from now until eternity.  I’m of the opinion that every bench can use a combo scoring guard with some access to more traditional point guard skills.  In an eight-man rotation, it just makes sense to consolidate skills that way.  There were two things that prevented Nate from crossing into the land of Starterdom: his good not great offensive game, and his height’s dysfunction as a defensive liability.

Nate can soar, and has a number of highlight reel blocks on his resume.  Still, his height requires a higher level of anticipation and premeditation to challenge shots in the sky.  He can pressure the ball and go for steals, but challenging the shot will always remain an area where Robinson is required to be unnaturally reliant on prediction.  Simply, because being reactionary just isn’t good enough.  There’s a certain irony in the fact that as Robinson ages and his defensive intuition is benefited by his experience, his athleticism will slowly dwindle.

If Steve Nash taught us anything in SSoL v1.0, it’s that a stellar point guard’s offensive skill can overcome defensive inferiority.  When your defensive philosophy is predicated on making opponents take poorly planned shots after being lulled into a false sense of security and superiority and then run the ball down their throats, you’re given such a luxury.  I think that once 2010 comes around, Robinson should be that point guard.  Last night, Nate put up 41 points on 18 shots…off the bench.  He turned the ball over once in 36 minutes.  He sealed the game with a nice, contested lay-up after a steal.  His ability to put the ball in the damn hoop certainly trumps his limitations, and his weaknesses (FG%, turnovers) have dwindled with NBA experience.

He’s not of the Nash mold.  Not even close.  There are games where he looks exclusively to shoot, and that’s precisely why I want him in there kicking ass and taking names.  The easier comparison is probably to Leandro Barbosa, but I think Nate’s play is infinitely less trite.  If Walsh and D’Antoni put together the type of team we know that they are capable of given their market and clout, Nate Robinson doesn’t have to be Nash…or Barbosa.  He’s somewhere in between.  Part of the beauty of SSoL is that it can turn rotation players and sixth men into juggernauts if they have the right skill set.  Nate’s got it.  He doesn’t have Nash’s court vision or Barbosa’s unbridled speed, but he can make plays for his teammates and he makes people look foolish with his quicks.  If you put a playmaker beside him on the wing, that offense goes from ‘fun’ to ‘deadly.’  LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, even Joe Johnson.  They would demand a subtle modification of D’Antoni’s system, but the benefits could be enormous.

Why must a scoring point guard’s works be invalidated by his height?  Tony Parker lacks Robinson’s athleticism and jumpshot, and yet he’s revered as a point guard institution.  He’s an All-Star, and a Champion.  Parker may seem facetiously more deferential.  His lack of a consistent jumper (even though it is much-improved) may make his ability to drive and finish at the basket more appealing.  But Nate combines an ability to get into the lane and to the rim with ridiculous range and unspeakable quickness.  It’s hard out there for a point…so can’t we remove the complications by letting a player play and dropping our notions of what a point guard should be and what he should look like?

Seth Carstens