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NBA fines Nate $25,000 for agent's comments; union will appeal

Nate Robinson was a 'DNP - coaches decision'

Nate Robinson was a 'DNP - coaches decision' for the third straight game on Sunday. (December 6, 2009) Photo Credit: Joe Epstein

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Nate Robinson's status out of the rotation has been a source of great debate among Knicks fans, and now the 5-9 guard is a point of contention between the NBA and the players' union.

After the league levied a $25,000 fine against Robinson Monday for "public statements detrimental to the NBA," the NBPA fired back with plans for an appeal.

"The union will aggressively oppose the NBA's decision to impose the fine against Nate," union president Billy Hunter said in an e-mail to Newsday. "It is not merited or justified by the circumstances. There will be no compromise by the union."

In its release about the fine, the league referenced comments made Dec. 19 by Robinson's agent, Aaron Goodwin, as the issue, which would make it the first time an NBA player has been fined because of something said by his agent.

Goodwin told several media outlets that he asked Knicks president Donnie Walsh to trade his client, who had been dropped from the rotation by Mike D'Antoni. Goodwin also blasted D'Antoni for making the decision to bench Robinson based on a personal issue.

"Donnie and I need to work together to get Nate out of there as quickly as possible," Goodwin said in a Dec. 19 story on The New York Times Web site, which had the first report of the trade request.

The next day, Robinson distanced himself from his agent's strongest statements and said his preference would be to remain with the Knicks, who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday. When asked if he instructed Goodwin to speak on his behalf, Robinson said, "I'm my own man, he's his own man, he's going to say what he wants to say, I'm going to say what I want to say."

Robinson, however, did not completely deny the trade request and said, "My agent is doing his job trying to figure out what's best for me."

The NBA in September fined Stephen Jackson the same $25,000 for making a public trade demand while still a member of the Warriors. Before Jackson, the only other player to get slapped with a trade-demand fine was Ron Artest in 2005-06 when he was with the Pacers.

Robinson, however, is the first player to be fined for comments made by his agent. Goodwin would not discuss the fine and referred all inquiries to the NBPA.

The league has no authority over player agents, who are regulated by the union. The obvious concern for the NBA is that agents would begin to speak out on behalf of their clients, thus circumventing the league's crackdown on public trade demands.

Eddy Curry also spoke out recently about his elimination from D'Antoni's rotation but was careful to stop short of suggesting he wants to be traded. "I won't even touch on that," Curry said Saturday, "because I'd be the first to get fined for it."

Walsh and Goodwin talked last week, but there was no move by the organization to honor the request and begin shopping Robinson. A trade could be a very difficult endeavor because of contract issues (Robinson is considered a base-year player under the CBA) and the Knicks' refusal to take back salaries that go beyond 2010. A buyout is an option.

In the meantime, Robinson, who hasn't played in the last 12 games, doesn't appear to be getting off the bench anytime soon. D'Antoni said that he is looking for more scoring and a need "to find a little spark" off the bench, but he effectively eliminated Robinson as a candidate when he added, "and keep our defensive integrity."

Instead, D'Antoni said he wants to get rookie guard Toney Douglas back into the rotation. And though Jonathan Bender has struggled in the last three games, D'Antoni plans to stick with him rather than give Curry another look.

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