Sam Amick: Recently waived Robinson eager to change his public perception - Sports Illustrated

Recently waived Robinson eager to change his public perception

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Nate Robinson has a request for general managers who might consider adding him to their roster next week when he's likely to become a free agent: don't judge a book by its cover.

And in the case of Shaquille O'Neal's recently released, Shaq Uncut: My Story, which portrays Robinson as a jokester more obsessed with his public persona than the decline of his career, the 5-foot-9 guard who is still best known for his three All-Star Slam Dunk Contest championships would be just fine if people skipped this particular book altogether.

"Everybody on the Celtics knows who created every skit, every prank, that we did -- it was all my man Shaq's idea," Robinson, who was with Boston from Feb. 2010 to Feb. 2011, told via phone on Saturday. "We did it together. He wanted to say that, and it's fine. But when it's game time and I'm ready to play, then I'm ready to play. That's something where I have to work to change people's mind and prove to them that it's not true.

"It is what it is. One good outlook of it is that I'm going to always be in that book. ... Some people say some things that are not always right, and life's not fair."

After his buyout from Oklahoma City was finalized on Saturday and he's on his way to yet another new stop, Robinson is determined to dispel the prevailing notion that he's too sophomoric to sign. What was once a refreshing comedy act in those early years in New York has become his latest stigma, with some teams forgetting how explosive of a scorer and shooter he can be while focusing on the antics that have the potential to both doom and define him.

As Robinson sees it, the reputation that has caused some wariness about him around the league him is off base.

"I'm a fun and loving type of guy and always a positive person who'll be trying to make people smile and laugh, and people take that as being a little kid and being silly," said Robinson. "This whole situation has definitely humbled me as a person and as a player. I just feel like, at times, I really don't get that fair shot, like some other guys in the league, but I guess that's my path. ... I'll continue to work hard."

It certainly didn't help that Robinson's roles in Boston and Oklahoma City were almost nonexistent. He spent most of his Celtics days near the end of Doc River's bench, although he had some memorable moments in the seven-game, 2010 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers when he hilariously dubbed himself and Glen "Big Baby" Davis the "Shrek and Donkey" of their bunch. Eight months later, Robinson was traded to the Thunder with big man Kendrick Perkins. O'Neal would later claim he saw the end of Robinson's Boston days coming.

"I wasn't surprised at all when he got traded," O'Neal wrote in his book. "Nate was always trying to get noticed by the public. He was always tweeting videos of himself punking his teammates.

"Some people are a little too focused on Twitter and Nate was one of them. He was too worried about how many followers he had. He kept saying, "Shaq, I need more people. Help me out."

Robinson, who implored O'Neal via Twitter on Nov. 8 to "tell people the truth," insisted that his silly style shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of focus.

"I could always have [handled things] better, but that's what maturity and growing is," Robinson said. "I've matured a lot, but I'm a fun type of guy. ... When I play basketball, I play with my heart and I play for my team. I play for my family, I play for the fans, and I play to win. Regardless of what I do after practice, or hanging out on the bus or after practice with the team, I'm just a fun type of guy. But when it's time to play basketball, I'm all the way focused."

Unfortunately for Robinson, there wasn't much playing time in Oklahoma City either. He played in just four regular-season games and logged just 12 combined minutes in Oklahoma City's three playoff series, all of which made it clear he wasn't part of the Thunder's plans.

So rather than collect his $4.5 million in this final year of his contract and endure more hoops misery, Robinson had twice-daily workouts in his native Seattle during training camp while his agent, Aaron Goodwin, negotiated the buyout with Thunder GM Sam Presti. Robinson -- who was on a personal upswing as recently as three seasons ago when he averaged career highs of 17.2 points and 4.1 assists per game for the 32-50 Knicks -- will be able to choose his own landing spot so long as he clears waivers on Tuesday.

In the wake of O'Neal's comments about him garnering so much attention, he was relieved to hear that his latest superstar teammate, the Thunder's Kevin Durant, had nothing negative to say about their time together when he called him the "best teammate ever" and a "brother for life" on Saturday. It is, Robinson vows, time to turn the page on the past and forge a new chapter.

"One team's trash is another team's treasure," he said. "With whatever team that I land on they know they're going to get everything out of me. I'm going to come to practice early -- first one there, last one to leave.

"I work hard every day, practice every day and play hard in games whether it's one minute, 10 minutes, 30 minutes or 40 minutes. ... I'm going to always cheer for my teammates, as everybody sees all the time. I'll be the first guy off the bench, congratulating my guys or picking them up off the floor -- doing everything a player is supposed to do."