By early in the 4th quarter last night, The Celtics had built a double digit lead and they were starting to build an insurmountable lead. Von Wafer had just made a layup and then a seven footer to build the lead to 14… which is precisely the point of the game where a lot of us had the same thought:
Where is Nate Robinson?
Nate barely played five minutes last night… which is more than the three-and-change he played against Portland the first time around. So I'll preface this entire post with the caveat that Doc might hate the Nate matchup against Portland's bigger guards.
Nate's getting about 14 minutes of playing time in January… down from the 26 he played in December but those numbers are inflated because he started 8 games. Again… not necessarily an indication that Nate's losing a job.
But Von Wafer is getting more time. He's up to 12.2 minutes per game in January. Which, at the very least, means Doc is open to other options rather than just playing Nate or Rondo or Ray more. In return, Von Wafer has played pretty well, having his best shooting month of the season while also doing other things for the team (like rebounding and playing defense). Add to that the impending return of Delonte West, which is still about a month away, and you've got the recipe for Nate losing a bit of playing time… or all of it.
Just watching the games you can see Nate is taking some terrible shots. People who listened to the game on the radio last night heard Grande & Max talking about his bad shot selection. Bill Walton also called Nate out on the broadcast last night… which means in just about five minutes, Nate had already taken a bad enough shot to draw the ire of both broadcast teams.
Looking at his shot selection: Nate is taking just one shot per game at the rim this season… compared to 3.7 threes per game. In January, he's taken 0.3 shots per game at the rim… almost nothing. But his three point shooting is still the same. Compare that to his best year as a Knick, 2008-09 where he averaged 17.2 ppg and you'll see that in twice as much playing time, he only took 1.5 more threes per game but he was taking 4.1 shots per game at the rim.
So Nate has evolved into an almost exclusive outside shooter who barely attacks the rim anymore…. and it's gotten worse this month. That's not the most shocking conclusion to anyone who has paid attention to his game for the past few years. And when Doc Rivers tells Nate to "be Nate"… I'm sure part of that includes Nate getting past a defender and attacking.
We've brought up the possibility of Nate DNP's before… and if last season is any indication… a stretch of Nate DNP's won't exactly be permanent. Doc knows Nate can explode on any given night. But right now he's shooting 35.6% (32.8% in his last 10 games). His shot selection is as bad as ever and other guys (well, one other guy) are getting more playing time than before.
Doc might not have much choice right now but to play Nate because he's the best option to back up Rondo… but it seems to me that Nate is on his way to some extended pine time. The numbers and circumstances all seem to add up to DNP's.