Nate Robinson after today's practice continued to talk about being "humbled" during his 14-game benching. But asked if it would lead to any changes in his game, Robinson replied, "I'm going to continue to be myself, play the way I play."
Nevertheless, Mike D'Antoni said Nate is back in the rotation (Larry Hughes is the latest casualty) "for a while" after his electrifying 41-point comeback performance in Atlanta.
"I knew at some time I would go back," D'Antoni said. "He's too talented of a player not to try again. Again, I know before it was supposedly all personal; it's nothing personal. It's how can we make the playoffs, that's what this year is all about and I'm gonig to try everything I can . . . I'm not looking to next year and I don't think it's fair to the players or anybody else. That's the game plan."
It's not that Nate isn't aware that his antics are the cause for so much consternation. I recalled a private conversation I had with him in September, on the day he re-signed, when he talked about some of the things that have driven his coaches crazy and annoys some teammates who expect a more business-like approach to games.
"That's just me, that's who I am," he said. "I don't want to take away from anybody else on how they prepare for a game, but I'm not the serious, mean type before a game. My game face, nobody would know how I'm feeling . . . I could adjust it, but at the end of the day, I'm gonna be me."
A little later in the conversation, Nate then revealed something to me that I found stunning, especially if you consider he is so filled with bravado and self-confidence.
"I'm only 5-9," he said. "It's only a matter of time how long I'm going to be in the league or not."
The line came within the context of his seemingly relentless passion for the game and the fact that he is often back in the practice gym at night putting up shots even after spending most of the day there with the team.
I asked him then if he felt like, even after averaging 17.2 points per game the season before and some prolific performances, he still hadn't arrived yet as an NBA player.
"I just want to get better," he said. "Like that man 24 right there [he pointed to a picture of Kobe Bryant]. He works hard, 24-7. I want to be like that."
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* - Eddy Curry missed practice with a stomach ailment. And, no, after Robinson's escape from the bench, it doesn't appear as if Curry will be next to join him back in the rotation. Though Jonathan Bender took another day off to rest a sore leg, D'Antoni said he expects Bender will be able to play Sunday against the Pacers.
Marcus Landry got the minutes left vacant when Bender sat out the game in Atlanta and D'Antoni said he liked what he got out of the rookie and "we'll re-visit that" again, though probably not if Bender is able to play.
* - Lost in the excitement of Robinson's performance was another solid defensive effort by Jared Jeffries, who, D'Antoni said, "guarded the whole team."