Doc Rivers to Nate Robinson: Don’t worry, you don’t suck
|12.17.10 at 12:34 am ET|
Doc Rivers could tell early on that Nate Robinson was having trouble getting into the flow of the game as he struggled with his passes and running the Celtics offense in the first half Thursday night against Atlanta.
There was a bullet pass from Robinson to Semih Erden in the low post that didn’t quite make it there as Josh Smith stepped into the lane for the easy steal. There was a pass intended for Ray Allen that sailed out of bounds later in the first half.
How bad was it? Even when Nate was hustling his rear off to grab a loose ball headed toward the Hawks basket, he flipped to the lane – expecting Kevin Garnett to catch and slam. But instead, the pass was picked off by Mike Bibby, who fed Jordan Collins for an open three, which Collins hit to add salt to the wound.
All of that added up to seven points, only two assists and four turnovers in the first half for the man who will be filling in for Rajon Rondo over the next two weeks as Rondo heals a sprained left ankle. Rivers said he had to have a heart-to-heart with Robinson, telling him to keep his head up and remind him that he didn’t think Robinson “sucked” just because he was having trouble finding his game.
“You know what I told Nate at halftime?” Rivers began. “I said, ‘Nate, just a notice for you. You’re the starting point guard now, and I’m going to give you a lot of instruction. It’s not criticism.’ You know, and Nate tends to – he gets coaching at times, he hangs his head, and it was at a point in the second quarter I couldn’t even give him a play because he thought I was going to tell him, ‘Nate, you suck’ or something.”
Robinson seemed to take Rivers’ words to heart.
“Just keep playing, play through adversity,” Robinson said. “Just turn the page. I was being a little timid in first half. Second half, he told me to just be me. I think I did that.”
Rivers knew full well that he might be dealing with a point guard that was getting overwhelmed.
“I don’t know what he thought I was going to say,” Rivers said. “And he was great. He even started laughing at halftime. I thought that relaxed him, and allowed him to play a little bit more. But with Rondo, you know, I’m so used to telling him what I need everybody – ‘Rondo, tell Paul this.’ I was doing that with Nate and Nate was like, ‘Enough! No more. I don’t want—’ and he finally got what I was doing. I guess he just has to get used to that.”
Rivers said he also told Robinson that he will be talking to him a lot more and giving him instructions now that the Celtics will be without Rondo for two weeks.
Robinson finished with 14 points and five assists and six turnovers in 41 minutes Thursday, providing a key energy boost in the second half as the Celtics pulled away for a 102-90 win over the Hawks for their 12th straight win. Taking some of the pressure off Robinson was the fact that Paul Pierce turned back the clock to 2006 and starting running the offense as a point-forward.
“Well you know, Nate’s just – Nate played well,” Rivers added. “He was having an off-the-mark night with passes. The last time he started he was terrific. So you know, I think you’ve just got to watch the game, and then I’m just going to have to just make adjustments. And that’s basically what we did today. You could see he was just out of rhythm with the ball; he was struggling with the ball a little bit. And with his passing. So we just made Paul the point guard. And it worked out.”
“Nate has always been good,” Garnett said. “You know, you put him with responsibility and he finds a way to deal with it. I thought he was aggressive. I thought he put pressure on Bibby really early, picking him up full court; some of the things Rondo is known for. You know, he established the pressure, I thought, for the most part.”