Robinson: When I think, I'm average
Yes it was only a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings, a team going through a rebuild and transformation process. But for Thomas Robinson, it meant so much more.
Sacramento is the team that drafted him, and they are the team that traded him to Houston a few months later. Not often is the No. 5 pick in the NBA Draft presented with such a short leash.
The Rockets didn’t waist time shipping away the athletic forward, either. However it’s the trade from Sacramento that stung the most and he’s still not over it.
Tonight, it was redemption time.
“It got to a point where I had to calm myself down before the game and remind myself that it’s just a game,” Thomas told CSNNW.com. “I just needed to relax and tell myself that it’s just business. It’s not personal. But at the end of the day, if I get the chance to go up against them, I’m not going to hesitate to give it to them.”
In a 109-105 Portland Trail Blazers win over the Kings Sunday night at the Moda Center, Robinson played superb to the tune of 14 points on six-of-eight shooting with eight rebounds collected in 24 minutes of action.
Robinson even had the play of the evening in the second quarter when he rose in traffic and threw-down a nasty left-handed put-back dunk that absolutely ignited the 17,357 fans in attendance.
It was such a crowd-pleasing play that Robinson had to let out a scream of his own, as if Sacramento didn’t hear the word around town that he was still in this league and being productive.
“I was glad that he came out and played well, in the first half in particular,” Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “He established himself, and in the second half as well. Both stints in the second half he was effective. I thought he made a couple of good passes, which I was glad to see and I’m happy he had a good game against his former team.”
Trading Robinson might have been a business decision for Sacramento, but Robinson isn’t going to let them off the hook for that.
“I use that trade and the negative articles that I got saved from last year where people were writing me off. I use that as motivation,” he said. “It’s all good, though. It’s not how fast you do your business, it’s how long. And as long as I’m still here 10 years from now, I couldn’t care less what anybody thinks about my first year.”
He wasn’t the only Trail Blazer who did some damage tonight.
Damian Lillard scored 16 of his game-high 28 points in the third quarter to give Portland its fourth consecutive preseason win. In a 51 second span in that third quarter, the reigning Rookie of the Year recipient erupted for eight points.
Whether it was pulling up for the threes in transition or attacking the paint, he did it effortlessly and relentlessly.
“I missed some shots early on that I would normally make,” Lillard said. “In the second half, shots just fell for me and I wanted to stay aggressive.”
Mo Williams led the reserves with 17 points. Nicolas Batum filled the statsheet by way of 14 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Robin Lopez did his best Batum impression with 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
It was a total team effort. For Robinson, it was extreme joy.
The NBA season is long and a preseason performance is not going to erase a year that wasn’t worthy of a top-5 pick. Robinson knows that. That’s why he going about things differently this time around.
His mindset is to not worry about touches, he’s just staying on the attack and being the aggressor. All the time.
As a top draft pick, he admitted to feeling entitled to a certain amount of touches and playing time while being a member of the Kings. That thinking is out of his system now. Three teams in two years tend to do that to a player.
He says that doesn’t change the fact that Sacramento gave up on him too soon, though.
When times on the court get rough, the power forward says he thinks back to when he played in Northern California and that motivates him more than enough to get out of that rut, knowing he’s not trying to go back to that feeling.
“It was great to just play a good game today,” Robinson said. “I know that the mistakes that I made when I was in Sacramento, the mindset that I had there, is completely different now. The mindset that I have now is where it will remain. When my mind is messed up, then it just looks like I’m playing bad like what happened in Sacramento. I’m not going back there.”