Robinson plays through the pain

SEATTLE - With the score 86-85, the New York Knicks had the last possession to pull out a gritty victory against the Seattle SuperSonics and finish a tough road trip on a positive note. The play was designed for forward Zach Randolph deep, but he kicked it out to Nate Robinson, who found himself with a wide open look and the clock heading toward zero in a hurry.

The shot was being set up just like Hollywood; the hometown hero, coming back for his first time back to Seattle as a professional in two years, and he would win it with a deep 3-ball - his first make of the game. The game hadn't necessarily come to him the way he would have liked, but going back and forth against the Sonics' Luke Ridnour felt just like the old days.

It felt right. It had to go in. But it didn't.

"I was praying to God," Robinson of the shot. "It was the right play, I just didn't make the shot. Tonight wasn't my night, and it sucks because I'm home. I let my team down. I didn't make any shots. Hopefully that will never happen again. If I had just made one 3 or one bucket, we'd have won the game."

The loss to the Sonics finished a dismal five-game western swing for the Knicks, losers of all five. "You can play good basketball and lose, and we've been playing good basketball every game this trip and just haven't come out on the positive side," Knicks Head Coach Isiah Thomas said.

It's definitely a performance Robinson hopes he never duplicates - five points on 0-9 shooting, 0-6 from 3-point range. Another Seattlite, Jamal Crawford, fared better, finishing with 23 points.

"In Seattle, that's normally what happens when guys come home," said. Thomas. "It's tough for him and I know he wanted to play well in front of everyone, but he had a difficult night tonight."

And to add injury to insult, Robinson was hip-checked a couple of different times by the Sonics' Kurt Thomas. He had already hurt the same hip and thigh the night before against Portland.

"The second time hurt pretty bad, but you have to be a warrior, play through it," he said afterward. "But today I sucked."

At times it was hard to differentiate which pain affected Robinson more; the pain inflicted by Thomas, the pain of having to suffer through a string of difficult losses, or the pain Nate put on himself by not playing the way he wanted to at home.

Meanwhile, his oldest son Nahmier was using the Knicks' locker room as his own personal playpen. Nate looked on as Nahmier weaved his way though the thicket of reporters to his father's locker.

"Was I weak today?" Nate asked Nahmier. He didn't give his son time to answer.


It almost got so bad during the game that Robinson nearly plowed into his old college coach, Lorenzo Romar, who was there in the first row on the south side of Key Arena with his wife Leona. Only a cameraman lay between Robinson and his past.

"I didn't want to knock him (Romar) over because his wife was there," Robinson said with a grin. "And because the cameraman was there, I wanted to make sure coach saw that I helped him up."

That's Nate the Great in action.

Just like the happy-go-lucky kid that amazed fans down the street at Hec Ed with his limitless energy, out-of-the gym vert and rainbow-deep jumpers, Robinson was soon headed back to center court after the game, where friends and family - roughly 50 - stayed to see Nate one last time before boarding a late flight back to New York.

"She probably took off my jersey," Robinson said of his Mom, Renee Busch. "She probably disowned me for the first time in my life. But I know she loves me.

"You can't be too mad, because anything can happen in this game. You have to be ready for everything."

This trip to Seattle differed little from most of the stops Robinson and his teammates make during the grind of an NBA season. It's still a business, and despite in only his third year out of college it's clear that he already carries himself with the air of a vet. Being home did mean one local stop, though - breakfast at Silver Fork on Rainier with his best friend Tyrone and teammate Mardy Collins.

"It's one of my favorite places to go when I'm back for the summer," Robinson said.

Not that Nate will look much further ahead to the Knicks' next game - against the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night at Madison Square Garden - but when the season does wind down, there will be plenty of mornings at Silver Fork in Robinson's future. And maybe there will be afternoons at Hec Ed playing pickup games with the likes of Crawford and former UW teammates like Brandon Roy, Will Conroy and Tre Simmons. Heck, Robinson might even be able to square up some old debts with guys like Ridnour too after Saturday night's loss.

"He's doing a great job," Robinson said of Roy, who was just announced to the All-Star game in just his second year out of Washington. "He's going to get better and better as he career progresses. He's putting Seattle on the map."

As Robinson continued to talk to friends and family that had stayed past the game to shake his hand, say hello, maybe get an autograph or quick picture, Robinson was as genial as ever. You would have never known that just an hour before, he blew his chance at a Hollywood ending and a homecoming to remember.

"Come on Nate, we've got to go," was the call from Knicks PR man Jonathan Supranowitz. Apparently it's Supranowitz' job to round up all the players so they can get to their plane back home on time. And while Nate was out by the floor, Supranowitz also had to find Crawford - who was sequestered one floor up, doing the same thing Robinson was with his friends and family.

Nate tried his best to talk to all his well-wishers, stopping more than a few times to make sure everyone got the photos they were hoping for. Whether a Viking, Husky or Knick, Nate Robinson knows how to work a room.

"Sorry Jonathan," Robinson told Supranowitz as he got one last hug from his Mom. And then it was back on the bus. And judging from all the smiles, it didn't look like too many of Robinson's entourage were going to hold his rough game against him.

It wasn't the homecoming he had hoped for, but there will be many more. And as long as Romar continues to coach at Washington, Nate the Great will always be known as his Lead Dawg - even with the occasional stumble.

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