After being drafted with the fifth pick in the NBA Draft in 2012, Thomas Robinson quickly learned the harsh realities of the NBA, bouncing around five different teams through his first four seasons, never averaging more than 16 minutes per game. So, when the Los Angeles Lakers came calling in the summer of 2016, after noticing Robinson working out at the Lakers facility, Robinson didn’t necessarily expect his role to be much different.
“I kind of, unfortunately, been in this situation my whole career,” Robinson said of his role. “I never played over like 15 minutes my whole career average, I kind of learned and adapted to becoming the player that stays ready when your name is called, that’s just the way the path took me so far, so that’s all I’m doing is staying a pro and staying ready when my name is called.”
Robinson was ready on Sunday night, when head coach Luke Walton inserted him into the starting lineup, in place of an injured Julius Randle (hip pointer). Up until then, Robinson had played in just eight games, and mostly garbage minutes.
The 25-year-old forward finished with nearly a double-double, nine points, and eight rebounds in his 16 minutes in the Lakers’ victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
“He hasn’t really had an opportunity for us all season,” Walton said after commending Robinson’s first start. “It’s nice to reward people that come into work every day and work really hard and don’t get the same opportunities as other players.”
Robinson was nothing but a pro all throughout the Lakers preseason, despite even Walton admitting that they didn’t expect his signing to last beyond training camp. Impressed by his physicality, fight, skill and hard work, the Lakers felt they needed to make room for Robinson, and to many’s surprise waived young prospect, Anthony Brown.
And now, his number was being called in the starting lineup for the Lakers.
“What I didn’t do earlier in my career was take baby steps, I just wanted it all at one time,” Robinson said. “So, this is what I’m doing now, it’s a process, so eventually I’ll keep growing, I’m still young, so I have plenty left in me.”
Robinson then echoed an honest and genuine sentiment felt by many players in the NBA.
“Of course I want to get out of it,” Robinson said of the minimal role he’s had throughout his career. “I think I’m worthy of bigger roles somewhere down the line.”