The New York Knicks entered the United Center on April 11 bristling with momentum. The team was riding a 13-game winning streak and had just defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, owners of a then-56-21 record, four nights earlier.
But by the time New York had packed their bags and boarded the bus to Cleveland for the next day’s contest, the streak had been snapped.
The culprit? Nate Robinson.
The enigmatic point guard torched his former squad for 35 points. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring eight points to lead the Chicago Bulls past the Knicks, 118-111.
The loss highlighted one of the Knicks’ essential flaws — a lack of enough offensive weapons.
The Knicks lacked a third scorer to turn to last season behind Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. Sure, they set the record for most three-pointers in NBA history, but when Anthony and Smith weren’t playing well, New York lacked a go-to scorer.
Robinson could provide that for the Knicks next season. The Bulls are not expected to re-sign him, given their crowded backcourt. The Knicks will have the mid-level exception of $3.1 million to offer Robinson, which would be an upgrade over the league-minimum he earned last season.
Robinson would probably be leaving money on the table if he signed with the Knicks, though. He will likely command more money than the mid-level exception (MLE) after his strong postseason, in which he averaged 16.3 points and 4.4 assists.
But the Seattle, Wash. native reportedly may welcome a return to New York. Aaron Goodwin, Robinson’s agent, told ESPNNewYork.com, “If the Knicks’ opportunity presented itself, I am sure he would appreciate an opportunity to play in New York again.”
Robinson would fill the void left by Jason Kidd in the backcourt, giving the Knicks a solid offensive weapon off the bench to pair with Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert and Smith. And he’s probably one of New York’s best options to provide complementary scoring to Anthony.
Three years ago, Robinson was ousted from New York by Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni. He wasn’t a disciplined player, nor did he fit the mold of D’Antoni’s offensive system.
Now, the Knicks need a scorer. And the explosive Robinson may their best bet.