"I'm an energy guy," said Nate Robinson in a phone interview. "I feed off everybody's energy. I know the crowd, every time we played here; the crowd has always been into the game. You got the Manimal [Kenneth Faried] that can run and jump, you got Ty Lawson that's quick, and you got a lot of guys on this team that are energy guys and I love playing with energy guys because it makes you play even harder."
Robinson was down at the Pepsi Center today taking his physical in the Mile High City.
"I gotta get used to this altitude. Today I did my physical and strength test and I was huffing-and-puffing," said Robinson. "I'm in good shape, but here I'm going to be in great shape. This is going to be the best shape I've been in in my life and I can't wait, I'm excited. The city alone has been great. Every time I've come here to play, the fans and even the mascot Rocky - I know he's going to be excited for me to be here because he always messes with me during the games, when I'm on the other team. Being on the other side now, the grass is greener."
He signed a two-year deal with the Nuggets for a little more than $4.1 million and Robinson's second season is a player option of $2.1 million. Since coming to the NBA in 2005 out of the University of Washington, Robinson has been a fan favorite - especially to fans on the team he is playing on.
"I play with my heart," said Robinson. "I try to play the game the right way. I play for my teammates and for the fans. I try to do it for all the little kids out there that people [say] can't do it. I try to lead by example by playing my heart out, playing my ass off, and just continuing to be there every game. I do all the little things: diving on the floor, if I can block a shot, I try to do everything. I try to be good at everything, it has been carrying me over my career and I think the fans respect that. They respect the fact that I go so hard and I don't let anybody stop me from accomplishing my goals."
It's clear from looking at Robinson's body of work that he values outside shooting. At just 5'9" and 180 pounds, he has had to work his entire life at getting shots off against bigger opponents. He must take advantage whenever he sees a crack in the defense and you can see from looking at him that Robinson takes care of himself; year round.
"I spend my offseasons in Seattle," said Robinson. "There are a lot of NBA players in Seattle: Martell Webster, Spencer Hawes, [Rodney] Stuckey, Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, I can keep going down the line, Terrence Williams, Brandon Roy, and we all workout together."
"I shoot Monday, Wednesday, Friday after my workout that I have with my trainers," said Robinson. "I go home and just shoot. I make about 200-300 shots: I do 100 two-pointers, 100-threes, and 100 free throws. Once it's time to get back into the swing of things, that's when I start going hard. I really stay in the gym. I don't really do as much hard training like running because I'm already in shape [from year round training]. So, I do a lot of ball-handling and stuff to get back in the gym."
During the 2008-09 season with the Knicks, Robinson took a career-high 385 three-pointers. He nearly matched that total this past season with the Bulls when he connected on a career-high 141 makes in 348 attempts. He also shot a season-long career-high 40.5-percent from deep. The key to his success from downtown?
"Confidence," said Robinson."I try to take the most open shots I can, the most comfortable shots for me that I know I can make."
Confidence in Nate's case comes from the work he puts into his game. At the NBA level you gain confidence from knowing that the shot you're taking in the game is the one you have made hundreds of time in the offseason and at practice. He didn't get to where he is by taking things for granted.
Another element to Nate's game that he doesn't take for granted is being a good teammate. That's where Tweets from Robinson like this one come from:
Chicago will always have a place in my heart I'm a miss all my teammates it was a treat playing along side of all of them all stand up guys
Chicago will always have a place in my heart I'm a miss all my teammates it was a treat playing along side of all of them all stand up guys— Nate Robinson (@nate_robinson) July 22, 2013
"I treat people the way they want to be treated and I treat people the way I want to be treated with: respect and honesty; and I'm going to be honest to a fault sometimes," said Robinson. "I'm going to tell you how I feel and if it's not what you want to hear, I'm just going to be honest."
I brought up a conversation I had with Wilson Chandler to Robinson. Last season when I asked Chandler about team chemistry he said the Nuggets 57-win team was probably the best one he has been a part of, but he said that his early years with the Knicks - notably with Robinson - were a close second.
"I'm always there for my teammates; whether it's a call or a text or they want me to go somewhere with them," said Robinson. "I'm that type of guy, I'm a family guy and I think that's where I get it from. Just always being there and being the oldest and taking care of my family."
"Being that big brother, even though I'm a little guy, being a big brother and being there for guys like Wilson. Wilson is real quiet. I remember coach [Mike] D'Antoni, when we were there with the Knicks together, and Isiah Thomas telling me, "Nate's the only way I can get Wilson to talk, he doesn't talk to anybody but Nate."
"I kind of got Wilson talking a little bit more. I was trying to get him to be more energized like, you know, when he scores a bucket he just doesn't do anything no matter if he has 50 points? When I was with the Bulls I played against the Denver Nuggets last year and Wilson had 35 [points] on us and every bucket, every facial expression was exactly the same. It was just so funny, I was like, "Dang, he hasn't changed a bit." We can laugh about it, but he texted me as soon as he heard the news and was like, "I can't wait to have you on the team, you're going to make it so much more fun." and things like that, I can't wait."
(Check out Chandler's facial expressions from that game.)
Robinson also played about a season and a half, from 2008-2010, with Danilo Gallinari and remembers those times fondly.
"Gallo, he texted me and was like [in an Italian accent], "Nate, come on. Nate, welcome home." Gallo is funny. Gallo and I have history together. His family has been great; I played pool with his brother and his dad. Gallo is a great player man; it's going to be fun to be back with Gallo. We still have our same handshake that we used to do with the Knicks that we still do when we play against each other. Gallo's a great guy."
Another man the Nuggets are hoping turns into something great is Brian Shaw. The new head coach and Robinson have had discussions about where the team is headed next season and beyond.
"I talked to coach B. Shaw. I followed his career over the years being a Laker and playing with different guys. He has been around so many greats," said Robinson. "I'm excited to be a part of what he's trying to do. That's just trying to win as many games as we can and play together. Take each step to getting better each day and I think we are on the same page and it's going to be exciting."
Robinson wasn't as forth coming on where his minutes will be coming from. When asked about playing point guard or off the ball he joked around a bit.
"I told Coach Shaw that if he wants me to play center that I would," said Robinson. "I'll go out there and guard the Dwights, [Nerlens] Noel, you got a lot of great centers in the league - I'll guard whoever. I'll play whatever position he wants me to play, it doesn't matter."
For Robinson it's all about just playing the game he loves. He has bounced around the NBA a bit recently with stops in Boston, Oklahoma City, Golden State, and Chicago since 2010, but perhaps he can carve out a home in Denver.
Robinson on wearing the No. 10 next season in Denver:
Robinson: I usually dig the single digit numbers, but No. 2 is retired. Alex English, great player. He was my coach at predraft camp when I played in Chicago. He was my coach and I averaged like 22 points and 8 assists, something like that, and he was just letting me go. I was like, "Man, it's a pleasure. You rocked my favorite number." I knew exactly who he was and I was like, "Man that No. 2, there is something special about it." I'm going to change it up and wear No. 10. I'm going to wear it for [Lionel] Messi, that's my favorite soccer player. I've been playing a lot of FIFA lately and watching the games. He's the best little guy to do it and I've got to be the best little guy to do it at No. 10 in the NBA. That's my goal.
Robinson on who he enjoyed watching growing up:
Robinson: Michael Jordan is my all-time childhood hero. He paved the way for me because everybody wanted to be like Mike. Then the smaller guys started to take over like Allen Iverson, I was a big fan of him, Steve Francis, [Stephon] Marbury, Baron Davis, and Muggsy Bogues; those are my guys that I liked. Believe it or not I was a football guy before basketball, so Deion Sanders was my hero, that's who I wanted to be like. I wanted to be like Prime Time.
Robinson on if he still goes out and play a little flag football, different from his days as a Huskies cornerback:
Robinson: I do, sometimes. This past year I didn't play. My friend puts a flag football tournament together and we won back-to-back championships the last two years, but this last year we lost but I didn't play. Hopefully next year I'm going to go back and try to get our crown back.
As a Seattle guy, does the 29 year-old Robinson remember the 1994 Sonics vs. Nuggets playoffs?
Robinson: Not really, my era is more of when they went to the Finals against the Bulls. That's when I was sneaking into games. Watching Gary Payton play and being a part of his AAU team the Gary Payton All-Stars. So, I'm familiar with that run. But I know a lot of the players are still back in Seattle. I see Detlef Schrempf a lot, I see [Donald Earl] Slick Watts he's always around, you got Shawn Kemp, everybody, I mean there's a lot of big guys that come around in Seattle and it's awesome.
What does Nate do for fun?
Robinson: I just got done playing ping-pong before I talked to you. I just got my butt kicked. I love ping-pong, I love swimming, and I love spending time with my children. I just left my camp yesterday, I have a basketball camp that I do in New York and I've been doing that for the last six or seven years.
Robinson on what is the "State of Nate" that he Tweets about and has YouTube videos of:
Robinson: State of Nate is pretty much just who I am: off the court, on the court. You get a glimpse of some of the things I do that a lot of people don't get to see.
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