Nate Robinson

Nate Robinson isn’t sure why teams overlook him, but he’s sure he likes Brian Shaw

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When Nate Robinson catches fire, there is no better show in the NBA. What playoff quarter was more entertaining than his 23-point fourth quarter in the first round of the playoffs against Brooklyn in Game 4, when Robinson single handedly forced overtime? He’s the shortest player in the NBA, a fan favorite everywhere and he plays with a chip on his shoulder fans love to see.

It’s why Robinson was a natural fit for the new “Pepsi MAX & Kyrie Irving Present: Uncle Drew Chapter 3” commercial — Robinson’s personality and game are a perfect match in that setting.

But Chicago didn’t bring him back after that playoff run. Like Golden State before them. Or Oklahoma City before that. Boston traded him before that, as did the Knicks eventually.

For all the love fans have for Robinson, organizations do not. Coaches crave consistency and see Robinson as boom or bust night to night. Robinson told ProBasketballTalk he’s not sure why teams marginalize what he can do.

“I don’t know. I’ve been hearing rumors about different things but I don’t know,” Robinson told ProBasketballTalk. “I know all I know how to do is be Nate Robinson, I don’t know how to be anybody else…

“You go from team to team and some coaches may like you and some coaches may not like you for whatever reason. But for me I just use everything for motivation. A coach saying one thing about me and not wanting to play me when I come to work every day, I take my job serious, I have fun at what I do but I’m never late, and you can always count on me. I don’t miss games, I don’t miss practices….

“I just feel I get looked over a lot. People pass judgment. That’s just part of life. I just learned to grow with it, I don’t use it as an excuse.”

You can decide for yourself which former coach he is talking about.

But you can see the coach’s side as well Robinson is as likely to come in with the second unit and shoot a team out of a lead as extend it — the fearlessness that makes him so great when he’s on seems to make him oblivious to the nights he is cold. He knows the next shot is going in, so he is going to take it. Fans love that. He’s very popular as a teammate.

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But it’s not for every coach — what Robinson wants in a coach is someone who is straight up with him. He thinks he’s got that with Brian Shaw, the well-traveled assistant now in the big chair in Denver.

“Coach Shaw, he loves hard workers so I know he’s going to love me. I know it,” Robinson said. “I’m not asking him for no minutes, I want to earn every bit that I get. I’m going to be the kind of player I am and push this team where it needs to be….

“It seems like he’s been around coaching for a long time. He played on great teams with great players, he was a great player as well. He does things the right way and he’s honest. That’s one thing I love about him. I’ve been around other coaches who have been dishonest to me over the years, said things than done the total opposite. But he gave me my chance.”

Robinson is getting a chance on a team a lot of prognosticators don’t think has much of one (myself included, to be up front). With a coaching change that brings a new system, with Andre Iguodala gone and Danilo Gallinari out until likely December, people see a big step back for a team that won 57 games last season.

Of course, Robinson is brimming with confidence — he likes this team. We should expect nothing less.

“You’ll see by the way we play,” Robinson said. “That’s how we’re going to convince people and other teams, by what we’re doing this season. And you never know, the record might be worse than last year, it might be better than last year. Nobody knows. Nobody knows the future. No matter what our record is, if we’re the last team standing and we’re holding the trophy, and we had this conversation, I’m going to say ‘I told you so.’”

We’ll see. The one thing I know for sure is with Robinson there and getting minutes, Denver is going to put on a show. This is going to be a fun team to watch.

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.

Cavaliers retake series lead at home with rout of Raptors

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Eastern Conference Finals have been all about the comforts of home. Through five games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, the home team has come out on top convincingly every time. Wednesday’s Game 5 was no different, with the Cavs destroying the Raptors, 116-78 to take a 3-2 series lead.

After a pair of awful games in Toronto, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving stepped up at home to score 25 and 23 points, respectively, to go along with 23 from LeBron James. The big production from their stars was enough to keep the Raptors at bay — the only other Cavs player to score in double figures was Richard Jefferson, who had 11 points, but it didn’t matter.

On the other side, after coming up huge at home in Games 3 and 4, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the field Wednesday, and nobody else did much to pick up the slack. After not trailing by 30 at a half at any point this season, Toronto trailed by 31 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 100-60 at the end of the third quarter. From the beginning, this game was one-sided.

The Cavs can close out the series on the road on Friday, ensuring James’ sixth straight trip to the Finals. But the Raptors have been a different team at home during this series, and in a do-or-die situation they should come out with more fight. It’s hard to imagine things going much worse than they did Wednesday.

Report: Joakim Noah having “positive dialogue” with Bulls about future

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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And the spin keeps on happening.

First came the report that Joakim Noah was telling teammates he was out of Chicago. Followed by Noah’s agent — the person charged with keeping Noah’s options open — saying that was not true.

Now comes team management — the people who said they want to keep Noah with the Bulls — saying the sides are still talking, and they want him to stay. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a “positive dialogue” about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he’s ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.

I’m going to let you in on a real insider bit of knowledge on what team Noah will play for next season:

Whatever team pays him the most money.

I know, it’s crazy, but sometimes people make a decision about where to work based on pay. Right now, everything is posturing. Come July 1, money will go on the table, and then Noah will know just how badly the Bulls want to keep him vs. other teams wanting to bring him in. Once the money is out there, if things are roughly even, then minutes and role on the team, lifestyle, weather and all the rest come into play.

But Puffy had it right — it’s all about the Benjamins.