Thomas Robinson says he’s moved on.
Moved on from what was a disappointing beginning to his NBA career. Moved on from what was an uncertain future in California’s capital city. Now a member of the Houston Rockets, Robinson says he’s put his seven-and-a-half month stint with the Sacramento Kings behind him.
“It’s a business,” Robinson said, following the Rockets’ 94-88 win over the Warriors on Friday, of being dealt unexpectedly at the trade deadline. “You never see none of it coming.”
This was probably not what the 21-year-old rookie envisioned when he embarked on his pro career last April. Robinson had just come off an amazing March Madness run where he and his Kansas Jayhawks fell just one win short of a national championship.
Almost a year later, he’s having to reboot his NBA career while attempting to leave his old team wondering what if?
“I mean if you want to look at it that way,” Robinson replied when asked if making the Kings pay is a goal of his as he moves forward in his career. “But as of right now for this season, I’m just trying to do everything I can to help Houston right now. So, I’m not really too worried about Sacramento no more.”
At the time he was drafted, he seemed like the perfect fit. His relentless motor and energy were deemed by many experts as the perfect compliment to DeMarcus Cousins on Sacramento’s frontline. He showed flashes of his never-stop-moving approach early in the year. But playing time came sporadically and chances to shine were few and far between.
Part of the blame was and is the Kings’ depth at big. Standing in Robinson’s way was Jason Thompson, who the Kings had just rewarded with a lengthy contract extension a few weeks after they drafted the former Jayhawk.
“I knew he wanted to play,” said Kings coach Keith Smart of Robinson. “But I thought at this particular time, Jason Thompson was probably going to eat the bulk of those minutes up because he had an understanding of what we were doing.
“And then over time, who knows?” Smart added. “He could have (maybe) developed into being that guy the way Jason has developed. But it takes some time.”
Smart’s lineup choices have been a cause for criticism in his second year at the Kings’ coaching helm. Not knowing if he would play or sit on a nightly basis made it difficult for the former Kings big man to establish consistency.
“I haven’t caught a rhythm yet all year,” Robinson said. “I mean, I didn’t get the chance some other rookies got this year. But like I said, I’m in a better situation now…”
Robinson does however accept part of the blame for his lackluster stint in Sacramento. The 21-year-old forward admits that he listened to the wrong people who had different ideas of what kind of NBA player he could be. That led him to steer away from the energetic style of play that made him a top-flight prospect last June.
Like many players drafted before him in the NBA lottery, Robinson tried too hard to prove his worth.
“Regardless of where you were picked in the NBA Draft, you still gotta learn the nuances of the NBA, the game,” Smart said. “How you play in the game, the situations of the game and that takes a little time sometimes. But I believe he’s gonna get to his point.”
In his final month as a King, Robinson started to figure it out. He began providing the Kings with the much-needed rebounding prowess they envisioned him bringing when they selected him with the fifth overall pick. In the month of January, no other King posted a better rebounding percentage than Robinson’s 19.2 percent.
His shooting around the rim made progress as well. As an undersized four, Robinson started to gain confidence around the hoop in January, going 32-of-64 on shots in the restricted area. In the previous two months, the former Kings power forward attempted just 31 and 41 shots total in that zone of the floor.
There is a sense of disappointment in the 21-year-old that his departure came when he just began scratching the surface of his potential.
“That’s the part that messed me up,” Robinson said. “I mean but like I said, hey it is what it is.”
The 21-year-old gets the chance to play for something meaningful now as a member of the Rockets. Houston is in the midst of the playoff hunt out west, while the Kings are fighting to avoid the conference’s worst record. His enthusiasm for the game has been a welcome addition to the Rockets’ bench according to head coach Kevin McHale.
Smart has seen his fair share of players come and go on teams he’s coached the last 14 years. Seeing Robinson leave so soon is an unfortunate part of the business, but it’s something he’s gotten used to.
“Now we wish him well,” Smart said of Robinson. “We hope he has a very, very good career and hope his new team will help him grow as a pro and as a young man.”
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.