LOS ANGELES - These days he is easily the Knicks' most recognizable player and wears the team's most popular jersey, according to sales statistics. His energetic game and ebullient personality are loved by two of the sports best players, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
And for a franchise that hasn't had an All-Star representative since 2001, Nate Robinson at least has given the Knicks some presence during All-Star Weekend in recent seasons, even if it's in the novelty showcase that is the Slam Dunk contest.
Robinson left Staples Center to head to Phoenix with his family Wednesday night after yet another disappointing Knicks loss. This one was 128-124 in overtime against the lowly Clippers, and Robinson, playing a major role in the absence of injured Chris Duhon, was one rebound shy of a triple-double with 33 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds. He also had five steals and only one turnover in 51:33. Then Robinson left to once again be the most prominent Knick represented at the league's annual convention of stars.
Meanwhile, an MRI of Duhon's ankle yesterday confirmed a sprain and nothing more. He is listed as day-to-day and is expected to be available for Tuesday's game against the Spurs.
Wilson Chandler will play in the Rookie Challenge game tomorrow. But the Slam Dunk contest is always the featured event of the night and, in many cases, the most talked about event of the weekend.
"It's entertaining for the kids, man," Robinson said of the dunk contest, which the 5-9 athletic dynamo won as a rookie in 2005-06. "The kids love it more than anybody . . . I feed off their energy."
One of the many options Robinson has considered for the Slam Dunk contest -- he has read through tons of ideas posted by fans on the Knicks' Web site -- to up the ante is to wear the Knicks' alternate green jersey, worn annually for St. Patrick's Day, and call himself "Kryptonite." When asked about it, Robinson did not want to get into any details about his plans.
"I want everything to be a surprise, man," he said to one inquiring reporter. "Y'all try to ruin it all the time. Just let it be what it is."