First step for Nate Robinson, Celtics

BOSTON -- We know better than to judge a trade in one night, so as lackluster as Nate Robinson's debut appeared Tuesday night against his former team, the New York Knicks, know that it was still a step forward from his first real activity with the Boston Celtics on Monday.

Robinson, traded to Boston as part of a five-player swap at Thursday's trade deadline, joined Celtics coach Doc Rivers for a very unofficial practice session Monday.

How unofficial? Robinson learned Boston's basic offensive sets with a lineup that featured associate coach Tom Thibodeau at shooting guard and assistant coach Armond Hill at small forward (the other players had the day off after a four-game road trip).

That's a set that even the Knicks could beat.

"He's had one practice with no players," Rivers said before Tuesday's 110-106 win over the Knicks, who put up a bit more fight than Boston probably expected. "He ran our offense [Monday] with [Thibodeau] at the 2 and Armond [Hill] at the 3. It looked crazy, it looked awful. And it should have."

The Celtics didn't expect much more from Robinson on Tuesday, when he registered four points on 2-of-7 shooting with two steals and two turnovers in 16 unremarkable minutes.

As debuts go, it won't be remembered as endearingly as The Strokes' "Is This It" or Anna Paquin's Oscar-winning performance in "The Piano," but it's over and it was a win, so Robinson will take it.

"[Tuesday's game] felt like a practice, only with real jerseys on," said Robinson. "It was nice to get out there, get a feel for the game again after [two] weeks off. I'm still getting my legs, getting my wind. I should be fine."

On any other job, the past two days would have been deemed orientation. Robinson's first official day on the job should be listed as Wednesday, when the Celtics will get their first true practice session with him.

"[Wednesday] I'm going to roll the ball out and just play," said Rivers. "I think with a point guard, it's difficult to integrate them into the system on the fly like this. We'll do it one set at a time.

"In the middle of the season, it takes time. It's different with the bigs because they don't handle the ball. If I asked Nate to call a set [Tuesday], he would say, 'What should I call?' And even then he wouldn't know how to run it."

Despite the growing pains, Robinson can find a few positives in his debut. The Garden faithful greeted him with a standing ovation when he checked in during the final minute of the first quarter, and they roared again when he splashed a 20-foot jumper with 10:33 to play in the second.

After drawing an offensive foul on the Knicks' ensuing trip down the floor, Robinson did little else that could be considered offensive (in either a good or bad way).

The Boston bench generated just 29 points, so Robinson didn't exactly provide any sort of spark on his first night. But his line was nearly identical to that of Eddie House, the other principal player in last week's swap; House finished 2-of-7 from the field with 4 points, 5 assists and 4 turnovers over 27 minutes.

All of which makes the trade a wash, at least for one night.

The real building process starts Wednesday. But, as Robinson learned from the first time he talked to Rivers last week, the bottom line is winning.

"Doc, he's honest, he's straightforward, and, as a player, that's what you like, for a coach to always be honest with you and explain exactly what he wants you to do," said Robinson. "And he's all about winning. Each guy on the team is all about winning. I've been a winner all my life, and that's something I want to continue to be: a winner. Doc makes you that much more confident in becoming a winner, and that's something that I love."

If nothing else, Tuesday's game simply showed Robinson what's expected of him moving forward, and he embraced it.

"I kind of go by the Charles Darwin survival-of-the-fittest theory," said Robinson. "I've got to be able to survive."

He survived his debut. Now the Celtics want to see how he does with another theory Darwin was famous for: evolution.

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.