Commentary

Nate Robinson a help, but is it enough?

Celtics' other issues remain after deadline deal with Knicks

Updated: February 19, 2010, 12:32 AM ET
By Peter May | Special to ESPNBoston.com

It is an article of faith that in evaluating almost any trade, you give the thumbs-up to the team that ended up with the best player. Advantage Boston.

As much as we loved Eddie House -- and we will never forget his great performance in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals -- he is the second-best player in this trade. The best is the one coming to Boston, the dynamic, if occasionally high maintenance Nate Robinson.

No, Robinson doesn't address the team's rebounding issues. No, he really doesn't address their turnover issues, either. But he brings an attitude, a feistiness and a fearlessness that is most welcome and, some might say, much needed for this group at this point in time.

[+] EnlargeRobinson
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty ImagesNate Robinson's attitude, feistiness and explosiveness should be good additions for the Celtics.

He can score in bunches. He can penetrate and handle the ball. He may be 5-foot-9 but he plays a lot bigger and can be a thorn on defense. And he's got six years on House on a team getting a bit long in the tooth.

The Knicks didn't want him and we will hear volumes about that in the upcoming days. Coach Mike D'Antoni hated Robinson because he felt Robinson was a selfish, me-firster. Robinson was benched for basically the entire month of December -- on a team going nowhere. (Had his contract not been up at the end of the year, he probably would have gotten some showcasing time.)

So, you might be wondering, is he a human carcinogen or merely a frustrated competitor? Consider the situation from whence he came: the Knicks of now are a mess, a joke, placing all of their chips on this summer's free agent table. Sure, Robinson exacerbated things with some of his inexcusable antics. But, in that respect, he brings to mind someone else who also had a "reputation" before arriving in Boston: Rajon Rondo.

Rondo's college coach, Tubby Smith, practically held a party when he learned Rondo was leaving school after two years. Rondo was also seen as high maintenance, impossible to coach, selfish and determined to go his own way at his own pace. Even as an NBA rookie, Rondo was told by Doc Rivers that his teammates hated playing with him.

But on a team steeled in veterans, Rondo grew up and he now is arguably the team's best player. That's one huge benefit of not trading Ray Allen; he has been Rondo's mentor since he arrived in Boston and Rondo leans on him. Robinson won't be able to pull off any of the you-know-what he pulled off in New York because the Celtics won't stand for it. It's sort of like the Stephon Marbury situation and, in the end, it was Marbury's game, not his behavior, that suffered. He didn't return. Robinson will be a free agent next summer. There's no guarantee he'll be back, either.

Of greater concern to Celtics fans has to be that while they may have made a minor roster improvement, the Cavaliers, the team they are trying to catch, appear to have made a major upgrade with the addition of Antawn Jamison. He gives them another scorer, another rebounder, your prototype "stretch 4" in today's hoop parlance. And, if Zydrunas Ilgauskas returns as predicted, the cost of the deal will be only felt by owner Dan Gilbert, not coach Mike Brown. Everyone of import will be there come playoff time.

The Cavs can say they are a better team today -- and they were already better than anyone else in the East. Celtics boss Danny Ainge made a decision: he is going to try to win it with what he has, hoping that the 23-5 team he saw in the first two months of the season is the one that shows up in the postseason, not the one that is under .500 since Christmas. He believes that the Celtics of November-December are still there, somewhere.

But also there are all of the issues surrounding this team prior to the trading deadline. How can they be such a horrible rebounding team? Why can't they take care of the ball? When will Allen start making threes with his customary efficiency? Can Paul Pierce be the go-to guy he was in June 2008 on a regular basis? And, most important of all, can Kevin Garnett stop looking like Long John Silver on the floor and become anything close to what he was two years ago?

Those were all legitimate questions up to 3 p.m. Thursday, and they still are. In the meantime, the Cavaliers improved, which does not make the Celtics' short-term outlook any rosier. And so many Eastern Conference teams will have cap room next summer (the Bulls expertly cleared cap room with two deals) that the long-term outlook doesn't look a whole lot better, either.

Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

Peter May

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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