Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Nate Robinson hadn’t played an NBA game in a month, but when he finally got on the floor he blew everyone away.
The 5-foot-9 Robinson scored a season-high 41 points on 18-for-24 shooting and also notched 8 assists and 6 rebounds to lead the Knicks to a 112-108 come-from-behind overtime victory at Atlanta.
“I’m here to stay. I want to play. I want to help this team win,” Robinson, who scored 11 of the Knicks’ 13 points in the extra period, told MSG’s Tina Cervasio. “Everything is in the past. 2010 and it’s a fresh start.”
“He’s an unbelievable athlete, unbelievable shotmaker and tonight was his night. He had a lot of pent-up emotions and he played great,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Robinson had notched 14 straight DNPs after becoming firmly entrenched in D’Antoni’s doghouse.
But in his first game since Dec. 1, the Knicks outscored the Hawks 97-79 with him in the lineup. Atlanta led by 13 points after three periods.
“Nate single-handedly took us,” Knicks center David Lee said. “I’d say he definitely made up for it tonight. He had an unbelievable game and I was just happy to be on the same team and to get to root him on tonight. It was unreal.”
“I want to thank coach for making this a humbling experience for me as well,” Robinson said. “But coach told me to be ready, so I told him I’ve been running bleachers, I’ve been running stairs. I’ve been doing extra work.”
Just three days ago, Robinon was fined 25,000 by the NBA for making “public statements detrimental to the NBA.”
His agent, Aaron Goodwin, had requested that Knicks president Donnie Walsh trade Robinson, and Goodwin then went public with that request.
“I want to thank my agents for sticking up for me,” Robinson said.
Robinson had upset D’Antoni through a number of actions, including shooting at the wrong basket in New Jersey and celebrating when he should have been playing defense.
But with Larry Hughes and Jonathan Bender struggling off the bench in recent games, D’Antoni finally told Robinson Friday morning that he would play him for the first time since a loss to Phoenix Dec. 1.
“Just because we needed it,” D’Antoni said. “Just watching the last couple games, we needed that little extra. And I didn’t think we were getting it from other guys and I knew Nate could give us that. And now it’s just a matter of staying on task and winning games.”
Added Robinson: “I’ve been home, just thinking about all the things that I’ve done in the past, shooting on the wrong basket. People think I joke around a lot but that’s just who I am. That’s just Nate Robinson being me. I’m a happy spirit.
“At the end of the day only God can judge me. It’s either you love me or you hate me.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.