According to the Daly News, Mike D’Antoni said the following about his decicision to bench Nate Robinson against the Orlando Magic:
“We want to win, and if he’s conducive to winning then he’ll obviously be back in the lineup. If not he’s not.”
D’Antoni’s case is that the diminutive guard is not conducive to winning, but that really doesn’t hold water. The Knicks have gotten off to one of the worst starts in team historically, and Robinson hasn’t played that much in that span. Nate has missed 12 of 19 games and has only seen 30 minutes or more in 2 games. Last year he played in 74 games and averaged 29.9 minutes per game.
The biggest irony is that there is a guard that’s unconducive to winning: Chris Duhon. The Knicks point guard is shooting 40.8% ts% and averaging 7.5 pts/36 yet is first on the team in minutes played. Although not a pure point guard, Robinson blows Duhon’s productivity out of the water (54.1% ts%, 17.9 pts/36). Last year with Robinson in the rotation, New York was 17th on offense. This year they are 22nd, even with Danillo Gallinari playing excellently on that end of the floor.
If Coach D’Antoni is making the case that Robinson’s benching is solely related to the team’s ability to win games, then it begs the question “Why is Chris Duhon leading the team in minutes?” Obviously the real issue is personalities; D’Antoni has been visibly upset with Robinson on a few occasions. Fortunately conflicts can resolve in a manner that’s positive. Robinson and D’Antoni could come out of this with greater respect and understanding of each other. But disputes like this can also end ugly, and Nate could see himself on the end of more DNPs or even traded.
How this plays out will give us a little insight on D’Antoni. He has a reputation for being a player’s coach, but perhaps underneath that veneer is a little bit of a disciplinarian. A few fans have voiced that this team is reminiscent of Larry Brown’s Knicks, and perhaps this feud is D’Antoni’s version of Brown’s “playing the game the right way.” Clearly the Knicks need Robinson’s production, and if they don’t receive it you have to wonder if D’Antoni isn’t the type of coach that can motivate players of all types.