In many ways, Thursday’s loss really shouldn’t have bothered me. On the road, playing a tough Chicago team, starting Chris Copeland at center and carrying a 13-game winning streak that we knew had to end at some point, there was little reason to be all that gutted about an overtime loss to the Bulls, so why was it I had all that trouble sleeping?
Oh, right, Nate Robinson.
There may well be Knicks fans who still hold a certain fondness for Lil’ Him, as the Daily News’ Frank Isola once tabbed him, a player who at 5′ 9″ really is almost an athletic miracle. The things he’s able to do at that size are really more extraordinary than they’re even given credit for. I’ve also never been one to cast players as simply not “winners,” as I always thought in the right role, the Natester could be a useful bit player to a competent team. But the Knicks were never that team and Nate was never just a bit player.
In many ways, it’s not Robinson’s fault. Playing on teams where there was no secret what New York was up to, clearing space for a potential run at LeBron, the Knicks still had to try and sell something. You can’t print out the media guide with a cover that blares, “The 2008-09 Knicks: We’re Going to be Terrible!” But somehow that would almost have been preferable to the relentless promotion of Nate Robinson, who was, yes, a spectacular athlete, but still no one for whom franchises are built. Sure, Nate was entertaining at times, capable of almost anything, both good and bad. But it nonetheless remains that when I think of all that losing, I think of Robinson too, whether fairly or not.
So it made Thursday’s loss all the more grating, to watch Robinson carve through the defense almost at will, clinching Chicago’s win with a dominant overtime period and again reminding us all of the Knicks’ difficulty containing opposing point guards, whoever they may be. All the while Nate reveled in every second of it — perhaps rightfully so — mocking Novak’s championship belt, throwing himself a personal parade for every made bucket and generally acting in the manner that’s playful and fun when he’s wearing your colors, but excruciating when wearing another.
No, a loss to the Bulls didn’t change New York’s playoff fortunes, it didn’t reveal anything we didn’t already know, but it sure was annoying.
In other words, it was Nate Robinson.