Slowing down made D-Rob better

Speed is a fantastic weapon in pretty much any sport, one much coveted by those who don't have it. But for those who do possess it, there is a different kind of challenge: knowing when not to use it.

Or, perhaps we should say, knowing how to regulate it. Take San Antonio guard Danielle Robinson, who is as quick as pretty much anybody in the WNBA. Ever since she emerged as a college standout at Oklahoma, she has been a blast to watch -- especially when showing off the jets as she goes coast to coast.

The thing D-Rob had to figure out -- kind of like a fastball pitcher developing a better changeup -- was how best to make her speed work.

"I think I had to fix that more mentally than anything," Robinson said. "Getting to a point where I knew when to change speeds. It's something I learned from the older guards. Becky [Hammon] is really good at change of pace. She taught me that, and it's stuck with me."

Robinson, in her fourth season in the WNBA, gives her "elders" a lot of credit for her continued improvement. Hammon, of course, but also two former San Antonio guards: Tully Bevilaqua and current Stars assistant Vickie Johnson.

And as the Stars -- who beat New York on Wednesday for their fourth win in the past five games -- look to solidify their third-place standing in the Western Conference, Robinson is really coming into her own.

She is averaging 13.8 points, 5.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds. She has been a regular starter since 2012, her second season in the league. At 25, she's entering her prime years as a professional and is now more comfortable as one of the Stars' leaders.

"To be in the WNBA, you need to have a lot of confidence," said Robinson, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft. "I'm not saying you need an ego or to be cocky, but you have to be confident."

In Wednesday's 80-66 victory in San Antonio, guard Kayla McBride had the second 30-point game of her rookie season. Post player Danielle Adams had 16 points, while center Jayne Appel pulled down nine rebounds.

As has been the case all season, Robinson was facilitator for everything the Stars, now 11-9, did well. She had 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals. She was a key part of a defensive effort that held New York to 38.3 percent shooting overall and just 18.2 percent from behind the arc.

"I was a little bit more turnover-prone when I was going too fast because I wasn't always making the right decisions," Robinson said of her development in running the point at the pro level. "Now that I have learned our system more and know all the players better, it's easier to know my role."

While last year was a tough one for the Stars, with both Sophia Young-Malcolm and Hammon out with injuries virtually all season, Robinson sees the silver lining of the 2013 season.

"I think it was one of the best years we've had in the organization as far as everybody growing," she said. "Not necessarily in terms of wins and losses -- because we didn't make the playoffs -- but with so many of us having to do more and gaining more confidence and now knowing what we are all capable of. It was hard, but we adjusted. The main thing I loved about this team last year is we enjoyed the journey, no matter what. That's what this organization is all about: growing together."

The past season, the Stars went 12-22 and finished fifth in the West, which ended a string of six consecutive postseason appearances. A knee injury Robinson suffered in August shut down her season after 25 games, and she rehabbed for the rest of 2013. She was ready to play overseas by late January of this year and went to the Czech Republic.

From the start of this WNBA season, Robinson has been sharp. She has scored in double figures in 16 of the Stars' 20 games. While her assist average is down a bit from the past year's 6.7 per game, she's just as effective a playmaker.

Defensively, Robinson continues to be one of the premiere perimeter players in the WNBA. That talent, in fact, is one of the big things going for Robinson in regard to potentially one day playing for the United States in the Olympics and/or World Championship.

"With Danielle and her speed, if you can cause havoc defensively, that can be very valuable," said Seattle's Sue Bird, who's been a point guard for the U.S. national team for more than a decade. "I think of Shannon Johnson in the 2004 Olympics. What she was able to do defensively was huge for our team."

Robinson, who won a gold medal with the U.S. squad at the 2009 World University Games, said making the national team during her career is a major goal -- as is winning a WNBA title.

This season, with Phoenix -- which got its franchise-record eighth consecutive victory Wednesday -- and Minnesota atop the West, the Stars probably don't have a realistic prospect of winning the conference. But they definitely seem a strong bet to get back into the playoffs. And more experience in the postseason will only benefit Robinson and the Stars down the road.

Hammon, who has been so big an influence on Robinson, is also a big fan.

"You've got to keep expanding your game, and D-Rob is smart," Hammon said. "She has the work ethic and the desire to be great. And she has some tools, with her speed, that most people in this league don't have. She's so important to our team, and she's just going to keep getting better and more consistent."