Robinson back to the point

Playoff star lands new Celtics deal

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / July 17, 2010

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Although he wasn’t on the conference call, it seemed Celtics president Danny Ainge overheard Paul Pierce express disappointment in the team’s offseason moves, or lack thereof.

Ainge yesterday secured point guard Nate Robinson, once considered to be a poor fit in the Celtics system, to a two-year contract extension worth $9 million with performance bonuses, according to two NBA sources. Robinson generated little splash as a free agent, but a two-year deal provides stability after years of career uncertainty.

Considered a bust after being acquired from the Knicks along with Marcus Landry for J.R. Giddens, Eddie House, and Bill Walker in February, Robinson emerged in the postseason and was a capable backup to Rajon Rondo.

Despite watching Robinson struggle to grasp the defense and attempt ill-advised shots, Celtics coach Doc Rivers promised that the 5-foot-8-inch guard would help win a playoff game.

That came to fruition in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Orlando Magic when he scored 13 points with two rebounds and two assists in a 96-84 win. When Rondo was flattened by Orlando strongman Dwight Howard late in the first quarter and injured his back, Robinson came in and helped extend the Celtics lead.

When the Celtics desperately needed a victory in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Robinson teamed with Glen Davis to combine for 30 points in a 96-89 win over the Lakers.

The Celtics were unsure whether they wanted to bring Robinson back, but the market quickly dried up of capable backup point guards. Ainge re-signed Pierce and Ray Allen and added center Jermaine O’Neal, but made no moves to replenish the backcourt.

He lost Tony Allen to the Grizzlies for reasons that remain cloudy, and Pierce told reporters Thursday he was disappointed the club hadn’t done more and pointed to the backcourt as a point of weakness.

Robinson’s return assures the Celtics have another young player with the ability to score and spark the TD Garden crowd. On his Twitter page, Robinson accepted congratulations on his return to Boston.

And he made a series of sacrifices to play for the Celtics. To facilitate the trade from the Knicks, he gave up his Larry Bird Rights, meaning the Celtics could not re-sign him to a deal without salary cap constraints, such as the deals for Pierce and Ray Allen.

Robinson was only eligible to earn 120 percent of his $4 million salary and the Celtics conceded and added another year to the contract, giving the former University of Washington standout much-desired security. Robinson was annoyed that he fell two games short of a $1 million bonus for playing in 58 regular-season games.

He needed 28 appearances after coming to Boston and made 26, missing two of the team’s final seven games. The timing caused his representatives to question whether the team held him out purposely to keep from paying the bonus and the additional luxury tax it could create.

That issue was obviously settled in negotiations and the Celtics brought back a key rotation player who may flourish even more with a full training camp and defined role. And the search for bench pieces may not be over. The Celtics are interested in former Orlando swingman Matt Barnes.

Robinson and Barnes share the same agent, Aaron Goodwin.

Gary Washburn can be reached at

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