Nate Robinson doesn't want to be traded. That's what he sort of said a day after his agent, Aaron Goodwin, said he asked the Knicks to seek trades for his client, who has become a fixture on Mike D'Antoni's bench.
"I want to be a Knick. I want to stay here," Robinson said before last night's game against the Bobcats. "This is where I want to be. I want to play; I want to help this team win. I think I can do that. I bring energy, I do all the little things. I just feel I haven't got that privilege to play the way I like to play: playing hard."
Note the usage of "play" as the obvious catch.
Donnie Walsh said Goodwin contacted him Saturday night regarding Robinson's status out of D'Antoni's rotation. Robinson has not played since a Dec. 1 win over the Phoenix Suns. The Knicks are 6-3 since Robinson was sent to the bench.
Regardless of the recent success the team has enjoyed, Walsh said Goodwin told him, "I may want him out of New York if this keeps going on."
Goodwin was angered by D'Antoni's comment Thursday when, speaking in generalizations and not specifically about Robinson, he said, "I'd play Satan himself if I could win."
D'Antoni was responding to a question about whether a coach will bench a player because of a personal conflict. Asked if he thinks it's personal, Robinson said, "I don't know what it is, honestly."
Walsh plans to talk more with Goodwin Monday but would not say he is ready to trade the 5-9 guard, who has frustrated every coach he's played for in his five seasons. Goodwin said, "Donnie is working with me," on the situation but would not comment further Sunday.
Robinson, a two-time Slam Dunk champion with an entertaining personality, is extremely popular among NBA fans, but most general managers don't share those feelings. Still, even with the limited market for Robinson, who signed a one-year, $4-million contract in September, the 2010-conscious Knicks would not trade an expiring contract for one that goes beyond this summer. And that, as Walsh said, "limits the trades that are available."
The Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - could look to two teams that were rumored to be interested in Robinson during the summer: the Lakers or the Magic. They could also approach the Bulls, who desperately need to make up some of the bench scoring that was lost with the departure of free agent Ben Gordon, and revisit talks for Tyrus Thomas.
Last season the Knicks were in a similar situation with Stephon Marbury, who eventually was bought out. That same scenario would be amenable to Robinson, who then could sign with any team for the veteran's minimum while the Knicks free up a roster spot without adding salary for next season.
But they are not as motivated to remove Robinson as they were to rid themselves of Marbury, a malcontent. Robinson has handled the situation well, aside from the fact that he and his agent are speaking out about his playing time when the team actually is starting to play well. "And that's a time," Walsh said, "when you're not going to try to make a change in the lineup."