CHICAGO -- Nate Robinson summed up perfectly his entire mindset on the game of basketball and the way he plays it Friday night after he keyed the Chicago Bulls' 87-86 win over the Orlando Magic. As Robinson described why he has so much confidence in his game when it matters most, he was asked when he last felt afraid to take a shot.
"Probably the last time I've been to the doctor," he said.
The truth, as Robinson knows, is that he's never afraid to take shots. Robinson could miss a hundred shots and still believe the next one he takes is going in. It's the blessing and the curse of having him on your team, and over the past week it's been more of a blessing for the Bulls. Signed as an afterthought in the summer to a contract that wasn't even guaranteed until the new year, Robinson has become a staple of the emotional roller coaster that is Bulls basketball in a season without Derrick Rose. Robinson has provided more of a stabilizing spark than the Bulls' front office could have hoped. Sure, there are still times when Tom Thibodeau is ready to pull the rest of his hair out over the way Robinson runs the offense at times. But there are also times when Robinson takes over the game with his offensive confidence. Without Rose on the floor, Robinson is the guy who can create and make important shots, a trait that is still a valuable commodity in the league.
"He's one of the great scorers in the league," Bulls center Nazr Mohammed said. "He can get you points in bunches. Nothing's changed. He's been doing it since day one he stepped into this league and he's continuing to do it."
For his part, Robinson just tries to take it all in stride. He enjoys the moment and relishes the chance to be the difference-maker for this beleaguered team.
"I just play," Robinson said. "You guys are the ones that write all the stuff you want to write about me. I don't care. I just play as hard as I can. How I play just helps me out more playing, I guess, helter-skelter. That's the way I've been playing my whole life so it won't change."
That's just the way his teammates want it. Like Thibodeau, sometimes they are driven nuts by Robinson's shot selection. But, like Thibodeau, his teammates have come to respect the way Robinson plays. They feed off the energy he brings and they love the fact that he plays with so much swagger all the time. Robinson is like that guy at the bar whom his buddies love to have around to meet girls. Sometimes he'll swing and miss but he'll never be intimidated by anyone. He believes in himself and his game for better or worse.
"Exciting," Jimmy Butler said while trying to describe Robinson's game. "I think that's the word. When you need a basket he can go get you one. If you need a stop he can do that. If you need a yelling, overemotional short guy, he can do that too. But man, Nate's key to this team. The offense that he brings and the way he can easily shift the momentum of the game. I think that's big on every part of any team and Nate's that for us."
Some nights Robinson will drive you nuts, but there are others, like Friday, when he will do what he needs to in order to help his teammates pull out a win when they appear to be completely out of gas after playing their fifth game in seven nights. Enjoy the ride with Robinson because you never know what you'll get.
"I'm not afraid to fail," Robinson said. "You're going to have to fail a lot to succeed in this game. So for me, you just can't be afraid to take that shot. You can't be afraid to miss it or make it."