It had been so long, Robinson said he didn't understand his coach. A teammate gave him a nudge, and Robinson finally understood he was getting the call after sitting out 14 straight games -- a span covering exactly one month.
He quickly made up for lost time.
Robinson scored 11 of his 41 points in overtime in his return to New York's lineup, and the Knicks beat the Hawks 112-108 for their second win in Atlanta this season.
Robinson, in his fifth season, said he felt like a rookie but was determined to take advantage of the long-awaited opportunity.
"I got nervous," he said. "Butterflies. I don't know. I felt kind of sick. I was just real, real nervous. I was just going to do everything he asked me to do."
Playing for the first time since Dec. 1, Robinson entered the game with 3:01 remaining in the opening period. He made 18 of 24 shots from the field, came within four points of his career high and had eight assists.
"I guess he had 14 games built up in him," said Atlanta's Jamal Crawford, who grew up near Robinson in Seattle. The two were teammates for four seasons with the Knicks.
"I've seen it since high school," Crawford said. "When he's scoring, he's as good as the best of them. ... He did whatever he wants."
Wilson Chandler added 24 points for New York.
Joe Johnson had 28 points for Atlanta, which has lost three straight for the first time this season. Josh Smith had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Al Horford had 22 points and 19 rebounds for the Hawks, who had only 12 points off their bench.
Robinson scored 19 of New York's final 21 points, including the Knicks' final four baskets in regulation. He then dominated the overtime by scoring 11 of the Knicks' 13 points and had the assist on Wilson Chandler's jumper to open the extra period.
"Against a great team, Nate single-handedly carried us," said New York's David Lee, who had 11 points. "It was unreal to watch him play tonight."
Robinson's teammates cheered when he entered the locker room after the game.
Three of Robinson's baskets in overtime gave New York a lead, including a three-point play with 2:09 remaining for a 108-105 advantage.
"We were kind of like 'Everybody get out of his way," D'Antoni said.
Robinson said teammate Jared Jeffries said, "'Don't pass it, whatever you do.' He just told me, 'It's yours. Whatever you do, we're behind you 100 percent."
Atlanta led 80-67 entering the final period. New York, which beat the Hawks 114-107 in Atlanta on Dec. 4, cut the lead to two points on Robinson's basket with 1:37 remaining. Following a miss by Horford, D'Antoni called a timeout with 45 seconds remaining to set up Robinson's drive down the baseline with 38 seconds remaining for a 97-97 tie.
Johnson answered with a short jumper, but Robinson again tied the game with a drive past Smith with 11.3 seconds left.
Marvin Williams missed a 3-pointer at the end of regulation.
Robinson was averaging 11 points in only 12 games. He had 24 points against Orlando on Nov. 29 and then played about 10 minutes against Phoenix on Dec. 1. He didn't play again the rest of the month.
"We've just been trying to get him focused on winning, and he obviously was focused on that tonight," D'Antoni said.
Robinson's agent, Aaron Goodwin, recently told reporters he'd asked the Knicks to trade the guard. The league fined Robinson $25,000 on Monday because players are not allowed to make public trade requests.
"I want the world to see I can play the game of basketball," Robinson said, adding he hopes to remain with the Knicks.
"This is where I want to be. And I hope that I can stay. ... It's a new year, a new start, and I'm not looking back."
Knicks F-C Darko Milicic (upset stomach) and F Jonathan Bender (sore left leg) did not play. ... Lee was called for a flagrant foul against Smith early in the fourth period. ... The Knicks were 9-6 in December. ... Hawks G Mike Bibby had seven assists, including the 5,000th of his career in the second quarter.
Kevin Durant and LeBron James debate which 1990s centers would be MVPs in the modern NBA
Durant posed the question on Twitter ... and he and LeBron have one key difference in their choices.
Stephen A.: Jimmy Butler was a star among stars in Game 1
Stephen A. Smith and Jalen Rose praise Jimmy Butler's impact in Game 1 and lament Al Horford's and Marcus Smart's absence for the Celtics.
Heat put on clinic in 3rd quarter to down Celtics and take Game 1 of ECF
The Heat outscore the Celtics 39-14 in the third quarter alone to take the lead and never look back in a huge Game 1 win.