Nate Robinson says, contrary to his agent’s actions, that he wants to remain with the New York Knicks. Coach Mike D’Antoni, through his own actions, has made it clear he no longer wants--in the spirit of Walt Frazier--the diminutive and ebullient guard around anymore.
Robinson has been glued to the bench for nine straight games since he first received a DNP - Coach’s Decision on Dec. 2 against the Magic in Orlando. Robinson spent much of the pre-game warm-up clowning with Stuff, the Magic’s dragon-themed mascot, and that seemed to be the last straw for D’Antoni.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh said Robinson’s benching is not due to a personality conflict but rather because the two-time NBA slam dunk contest champion has a tendency to do too much freelancing on the floor, even in D’Antoni’s wide-open offense.
“Mike wants Nate if Nate plays the right way and fits in with what he’s doing,” Walsh said. “That’s what this is about. Nate’s got talent. He can help a team win but only when he plays within the parameters of what the team is trying to do.”
Robinson’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, has asked Walsh to consider trading his client. However, Robinson, who has spent his entire five-year career with the Knicks, says he does want dealt.
“I want to be a Knick,” Robinsons said. “This is where I want to be and I want to play. I just feel I haven’t gotten that privilege to play the way I’d like to play.”
What is also making it tough for Robinson to get back into D’Antoni’s rotation is that the Knicks are 6-3 since he began sitting. That has helped them raise their record to 10-17 after a 4-14 start.
“The team's playing very well and that’s a time when you're not going to try to make a change in the lineup,” Walsh said.
Robinson returned to the Knicks on a one-year, $4-million contract as a free agent only after they failed in their off-season attempt to sign other point guards, including Jason Kidd, Andre Miller, Jason Williams and Ramon Sessions. Because the Knicks want to clear as much salary cap space as possible to dive into the fertile 2010 free-agent market, they would have a hard time trading Robinson without having to take back a multi-year contract. Thus, they could be stuck with Robinson and vice versa.
“It limits trades that are available,” Walsh admitted.
Miami Balances Present, Future
The Miami Heat’s plan is also to open as much cap space as possible for the upcoming offseason. However, at 13-12 Miami is looking like a playoff contender.
That could put Heat in a tough spot at the Feb. 18 trading deadline in that Miami would have to weigh trading for players that would help the team make a playoff push but also hurt its cap situation. Team president Pat Riley said the Heat will try to be creative if they encounter that situation.
“We’ve been pretty diligent on all of the one-year deals out there,” Riley said. “I think everyone's sort of in a holding pattern right now.”
Riley also said he fully expects the Heat to be in the running for the playoffs and to get better as the season goes on.
“We are a playoff-contending team,” he said. “I see us right in the middle of the pack, all those teams that are trying to find and maintain their identity but still a level below the top four teams in the East. You can't always get to the next level overnight. We hope we can get to the next level this year, sometime. We've got a lot of time. There's a lot of time in this season.”
Tinsley Moving On
Memphis Grizzlies reserve point guard Jamaal Tinsley can now move past the very messy ending to his time with the Indiana Pacers.
Tinsley spent the first eight years of his career with the Pacers but was banned from being part of the team last season following a series of off-court problems that included being shot outside a downtown Indianapolis hotel. The Pacers bought out the final two years of Tinsley’s contract for $10.7 million last summer after protracted negotiations.
Tinsley, who signed with the Grizzles as a free agent earlier this season, faced the Pacers for the first time last Friday night at Memphis. Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird approached him on the floor of the FexEd Forum about 90 minutes prior to game time and they had an amicable conversation that included a handshake at the end.
“They felt like they needed to move away and that's the nature of the business,” Tinsley said. “Sometimes you have to move along. It's like any relationship. I just have to move forward. Both sides wanted to part. They wanted a lot of money back. I don't know what happened with (potential) trades but they wanted too much money back. But I gained a lot of stuff off them. I helped them win ball games.”
Tinsley admits he made mistakes during his time with the Pacers.
“I'm not perfect. There's nobody perfect,” Tinsley said. “That stuff can happen to anybody. Everybody has bad things happen to them but they're not in the spotlight.”
Butler on the Block?
Plenty of trade rumors have been circulating around the Wizards, who are a disappointing 8-17 in Flip Saunders’ first season as coach. It is believed that the Wizards would consider parting with power forward Antawn Jamison or small forward Caron Butler.
That the Wizards might deal Butler is a pretty strong indication that he is not a favorite of Saunders. The Wizards refused to trade Butler and the No. 5 overall draft pick to the Suns for Amar'e Stoudemire last summer.
“You've just got to play basketball, regardless if trades happen or not,” Butler said. “You have to play. It's a business."
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John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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