A lot has been made about Nate Robinson returning to the Knicks lineup after a full month on the bech, and lighting it up for 41 points in a huge win for the Knicks vs. the Atlanta Hawks. I have seen a few comments such as "Why was Nate not playing? What is wrong with D'Antoni???". Nate today went out and shot 2-11 for 6 points. Was Nate a 1 game wonder? Should he have played last month? What is going on in New York?
Let me answer these questions. First off, nobody can deny that Nate has a lot of growth to do as a basketball player. He's an energetic sparkplug, he can light it up, but he plays lax D and very selfish at times. This combined with his unprofessional manner led the Knicks to bench him early in a Dec. 1st game with Phoenix and not play him the rest of the month.
How did the Knicks do in December? 9-6, with wins vs. Phoenix, Atlanta, Portland, New Orleans, and Charlotte.
Nate came back and played great vs. Atlanta, and now had a bad game in a huge blowout win vs. Indiana.
But Nate is a different player now.
Even when scoring 41 points, Nate seemed to want to get his teammates involved, and was much more active on the defensive end. And today, his shot didn't fall, but he had some pretty passes, and did great work on the glass during his minutes.
D'Antoni had a lesson for Nate that he had to teach him, and the only way to get the lesson through was to stop giving Nate a run during the games. The lesson was: stop playing the way you want to play, and play the way I want you to play, because there is a place for you on this team, but it's only if you play a team-first style. Nate was a great teammate while he lost his minutes. He was energetic on the bench, him and Curry sat together every night and really cheered the Knicks on. Nate ran the steps after practice and on game days and kept himself ready to go if the team needed him.
But the Knicks didn't need Nate. When Nate was benched, the Knicks were 3-14. THREE AND FOURTEEN! When Nate came back, the Knicks were 12 and 20 and right in the thick of the playoff race. The Knicks excelled in a team first concept without Nate.
Have you seen the Knicks lately? They are playing great help defense, and really sharing the ball well. They arn't running as much, but they are all playing very hard on both ends. Some days they are just not talented enough, but during th 9-6 Nate-less December, the Knicks beat more teams they shoudln't beat then they did lose to teams they should beat. A team that had won only 3 of it's first 17 games actually won nine of fifteen. Think of what a huge swing that is!
And when New Years rolled around, Larry Hughes was bothered by injuries and bad play, and the Knicks needed him, D'Antoni called on Nate. And Nate came through. He didn't get 41 points because Nate is a star athlete and can get 41. He got 41 because the team was begging him to keep scoring big baskets to force OT and win the game in OT. Nate did what the team needed him to do, he even got 8 assists in that game.
Thanks to D'Antoni, Nate's game grew.
You have to give D'Antoni credit for how he played the Nate situation. The Knicks won 3 out of every 5 games without Nate, and now when we needed Nate, he boosted us to a huge win, and now we've won two straight. That's an 11-6 run for a team that was 3-14! D'Antoni made a bold call to bench arguably the Knicks most popular player, Nate grew up, took his benching like a man, and worked to stay better, Nate learned the mental lessons he needed to learn, and now Nate is fitting right in with the surging Knicks.
The Knicks became a dangerous team when they took the selfish Nate out of the lineup. And now the Knicks are more dangerous that they have the selfless Nate.
So what is wrong with D'Antoni? Nothing. Why was Nate benched? To change him for the better. What was D'Antoni thinking? Whatever it was, it's led the Knicks to 11 wins out of 17, so I hope he thinks like that more as the season continues.