“Just come in and just be Nate.”
Those were the words of advice Nate Robinson remembers hearing from Doc Rivers when he was traded to the Celtics last week.
So what exactly does “just being Nate” mean?
“Just be me,” he explained on Tuesday night. “Play with fire and energy. I play with a lot of energy and play for the love of the game, and I guess that’s what it is.”
But there are many layers to someone with such a big personality. Those who played with him on the Knicks have seen first-hand what it means for the guard to just be himself. Here's what three of his former teammates think Celtics fans should know about Robinson.
Dangerous When Hot
After sitting out 14 straight games this season, Robinson scored 41 points in 38 minutes off the bench to carry the Knicks to victory over the Hawks on Jan. 1. Being sidelined for a month did not stop him from jumping into action when called upon. Al Harrington remembers Robinson’s performance clearly.
“There was this one time this year, New Year’s Day, we watched him score [nearly 20] straight points,“ Harrington recalled. “So there’s a lot of times like that, hustle plays that he makes, doing stuff that nobody in the league could do except for a guy like him. So he’s always out there making plays.”
There When You Need Him
The Knicks dropped 14 of their first 17 games to start the season and were on another losing streak before Robinson was traded. In spite of the team’s consistent struggles, Robinson tried to keep spirits up. Wilson Chandler attests to the impact of Robinson’s vocal support.
“It’s a long season and we were on a five-game losing streak,“ Chandler recounted. “He’d just come in the locker room and say, ‘It’s a long season and we’ve got a lot of games left. Don’t get too down. We’ve got this amount of games and we can get right back in this.’ You look at it as it’s the truth. Coming from your teammate is different than coming from outside, like from your family or friends. It’s somebody that’s in the same situation as you. … He’s a good teammate as far as being there for you, sticking around, being there when you’re down. He likes to joke around a lot and sometimes you need that in the locker room.”
From Joking Around to Getting the Job Done
Robinson may enjoy joking around the off the court, but the Celtics require focus on the court. (You don’t see Kevin Garnett laughing on the parquet.) But even with Robinson's jovial personality, Chris Duhon says he can mesh with that intensity.
“It’s going to be interesting, but I think Nate, he’s very smart,“ Duhon said. “He’s going to be able to adjust to different personalities and he’s going to be able to feel his way. He’s still going to be able to be himself, but he’s probably going to pick and choose when he goes all out. But I think when it comes game time, depending on how the locker room is, he’ll figure it out. If it’s all business, he’ll be all business. He’s very smart in that aspect.”