Nate Robinson and the New York Knicks: doomed to fail in 2009-10
The season was becoming a disaster. The Knicks – after a decent 2009 that teased Madison Square Gardens into thinking 2010 wouldn’t be a lame duck – stumbled to an embarrassing 3-14 record. The players were about getting theirs -and only theirs. The coaching staff and front office seemed disorganized, while fans were reaching for the ‘Fast Forward To Next Summer’s Free Agents’ button …
Those with power often make examples of subordinates.
Office managers keep their staffs focused by firing employees who collect Facebook friends and give status updates on company time. In early September, teachers crack on students who make like Spicoli in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. And parents rightfully use incidents to enforce rules over children.
It’s about establishing control.
Clearly, New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was making an example of Nate Robinson when he benched the jack-in-the-box guard last week. D’Antoni had to re-establish control.
The season was becoming a disaster. The Knicks – after a decent 2009 that teased Madison Square Gardens into thinking 2010 wouldn’t be a lame duck – stumbled to an embarrassing 3-14 record. The players were about getting theirs -and only theirs. The coaching staff and front office seemed disorganized, while fans were reaching for the ‘Fast Forward To Next Summer’s Free Agents’ button.
With the infamous New York media circling, D’Antoni and team President Donnie Walsh had to get their apathetic players and fans’ attention. They considered – and ultimately passed on – signing Allen Iverson following his release from the Memphis Grizzlies.
So they looked in-house for a spark. Whether a spur of the moment decision or a calculated choice for past transgressions, D’Antoni benched the combustible guard for a December 2nd game against the Orlando Magic.
The Knicks didn’t win that game. They did win their next three, though. And Robinson didn’t play one second.
This isn’t your typical player-in-dog-house story. To understand the significance of Robinson’s benching, you first have to understand his curious relationship with the Knicks and their fans.
It’s a love-hate thing. When focused, the organization loved his energy, charisma, and connection with fans. During the doldrums of the last few seasons, Robinson – the lovable little man – was often entertaining, competing for and winning the 2009 Slam Dunk Contest.
When unfocused, the organization hated how his energy became wild, how his charisma turned to cockiness, and how he connected with fans for the wrong reasons. For instance, Robinson was once called for traveling when he threw himself a bounce pass for an alley-oop dunk.
The final straw came in late November. Robinson, for some reason, shot on his own basket as time expired on the first quarter of a game against the lowly New Jersey Nets. D’Antoni immediately admonished his player and still hasn’t forgiven him.
Of course, benching the former University of Washington Husky star posed no risk to D‘Antoni. Robinson, who is on a one-year deal for $4 million, won’t be brought back because the Knicks will need cap space to sign free agents next July.
So taking Robinson out the playing rotation was a no-brainer. D’Antoni and the Knicks have simply ended a doomed relationship six months early.