Commentary

What's deal with Nate Robinson?

Whether trade with Knicks significantly helps Celtics is debatable

Updated: February 18, 2010, 12:09 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

LOS ANGELES -- With Eddie House openly admitting Wednesday that the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks are nearing a trade deadline deal that likely will involve him swapping jerseys with Nate Robinson, two questions immediately come to mind:

1) Are the Celtics a better team because of this deal? 2) Is this the only move Boston plans to make before Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline?

Maybe it's appropriate the Celtics were traveling near the San Andreas Fault as this deal came together, because, if nothing else, it's set to provide Boston with the shakeup it so desperately needed after dropping 13 of its final 22 games before the All-Star break.

[+] EnlargeNate Robinson
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesWhether Nate Robinson is well-suited to the role of backup point guard remains to be seen.

The Celtics, sloppy and lacking composure at times late in the first half of the season, stumbled time and again, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge appears to be sending a message that the status quo will not be tolerated by stripping the team of one of its core members from the 2007-08 championship team.

Coach Doc Rivers admitted the idea of even the slightest tweak to that core is a daunting thought, but understands the nature of the league.

"It's easy for me to move guys from the exterior of the core, but it's difficult to even think about touching anyone in the core," Rivers said while acknowledging the trade rumors during Boston's practice Wednesday on the campus of UCLA. "If we do this [trade], that, in my opinion, is what we'd be doing here. To me, that's a tough thing to do. But that's life in the NBA."

For a Celtics team that hung a blank championship banner in its practice facility before the start of the 2009-10 season, it's a reminder that anything short of filling in that banner will be considered failure.

For a Celtics team that has a picture of the Larry O'Brien trophy hanging near the locker-room door at TD Garden, it's a reminder that management will not simply let a championship-caliber season spin out of control.

Does the addition of Robinson make the Celtics better? On the surface, the deal appears largely to be a push. Despite House's struggles this season, he's regarded as one of the top 3-point shooters in the NBA and was a major factor in Boston's playoff success the past two seasons. He had carved out a comfortable niche in Boston despite a journeyman's career.

While Robinson brings more offensive potential -- for example, his 41-point explosion on Jan. 1 after a 15-day absence from the Knicks' lineup -- he's unlikely to enjoy the sort of minutes and offensive freedom he had in New York. In Boston, Robinson will be slotted as Rajon Rondo's backup, assigned with handling the ball for the second unit and being more of a distributor than he might have previously been.

Obviously Robinson also will be asked to provide at least as much scoring as House did, but he'll do it in a very different way. He's more likely to create for himself than House, who relied on a catch-and-shoot approach from the perimeter.

The 31-year-old House averaged 7.2 points, 1 assist, 1.4 rebounds and 0.6 steals in 50 games this season. The 25-year-old Robinson counters with 12.5 points, 3.7 assists, 1.8 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game in 30 contests. Robinson is unlikely to be a worse defender than House, who struggled against opposing point guards in recent games, most notably a loss to New Orleans before the break.

Both players are set to become free agents at season's end, so neither team gains anything there. On paper, it's a marginal upgrade for Boston, but it's not without risks.

Both players are regarded as high-energy and capable of giving a spark off the bench. It will be interesting to see if Robinson is capable of providing the same lift House often did, particularly as he's forced to create chemistry on the fly in Boston.

It might work, it might not. But it seems Ainge couldn't let the deadline pass without making some sort of statement to his team, taking them out of their comfort level, if even just a bit.

But is this the only move Ainge plans to make? It remains to be seen if a team will put together a strong enough offer to make the Celtics seriously consider moving Ray Allen and his expiring $19.7 million contract.

One thing's for certain: Ainge doesn't appear shy about pulling the trigger if he feels he can help his team win -- and win now. If the right deal were to float across his desk, he'd have to give a Ray Allen trade careful thought.

The impending trade of House suggests that the Celtics think their championship window is still open, and they plan to utilize every remaining moment before letting it shut.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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