Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton will be the first to tell you that before Thomas Robinson became a regular at the facility in the offseason, the 25-year-old forward was nowhere on his radar. Robinson had bounced around on five different teams over his first four NBA seasons, unable to find any consistency in the NBA.
It wasn’t until Robinson started working out at the Lakers facility, participating in pick-up games over the summer, that Walton and the Lakers staff started to take notice.
“Every single day his teams were winning and he was one of the better players on the court. I talked about it to the front office and we were like, we might as well invite the kid,” Walton said of offering Robinson a training camp invite. “He shows up everyday and gets all this work in and plays his butt off everyday.”
Even then, Walton admits they didn’t expect Robinson’s signing to last beyond training camp.
“Then you assume that once you get to a more structured setting that you’d see some reasons why he hasn’t stuck (in the NBA), and he was great. Great all throughout training camp,” Walton said. “Not only as far as the way he played, but the way he interacted with the team in preseason games. Even when he was getting DNPs (Did Not Play), he was talking in the huddles, talking at halftime.”
Throughout training camp, the coaching staff grew increasingly impressed with Robinson and started to discuss how they could make room for him. By his final preseason game, the staff felt that Robinson had earned a spot, but with 17 players still on the roster, how would they make room?
“He definitely earned a spot it was just trying to find a way to get him a spot,” Walton explained.
After the Lakers released Yi Jianlian, per he and his agent’s request on Monday morning, in order to keep both Thomas Robinson and Metta World Peace, the Lakers waived second-year guard Anthony Brown.
“That was tough,” Walton said of the team waiving Brown. “But with the team we have, with so many young guys, we have so many twos and threes (guards), as it is right now, and with Nick (Young) playing as well as he’s playing, and signing (Luol) Deng, and drafting Brandon (Ingram), it was tough to find him (Brown) opportunities out there, and as much as I like him and as well as he was playing, MWP (Metta World Peace) and T-Rob (Robinson) were really bringing it every single day. They were giving us a toughness that I think we need. Giving us some vocal leadership, some experience, and I just felt like in talking with the guys upstairs that was what was most valuable for those last couple spots.”
For Robinson, he was relieved when he heard the news, which wasn’t until he got to the locker room at the Lakers facility before practice on Monday, after a long car ride and a sleepless night.
“One goal completed. Just got to move onto the next now and try to find a way that I’m going to help this team the best way I can,” Robinson said. “I made the team but nothing is done yet. I shouldn’t have been in that position, but things happen the way they happen and I worked my way out of it and I just have to keep going.”
Robinson expects his opportunity with the Lakers to be much different from his previous experiences. Last week, Robinson told LakersNation.com, that he didn’t feel like the “odd man out” during training camp as he has in the past. Playing for the Sacramento Kings his rookie season, Robinson was traded midway through to the Houston Rockets, only to be traded a few months later to the Portland Trail Blazers. Robinson then had stints with the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets.
“I’m unstable, because I never really caught grasp to an organization and actually built relationships with coaches, players, teammates…because I’ve been one year and gone with every team that I’ve been with, so that’s been hard but that’s the nature of the business, the hand I got dealt and I’m working my way out of it,” Robinson said after making the final roster cut Monday.
Walton said he was honestly shocked that Robinson hasn’t stuck on a team in the NBA.
But maybe, he was just waiting for the right opportunity to come along.
“Here, everybody has to catch up, find out who they are,” Robinson said. “I fit right in, trying to figure out which way I’m going to go with my career.”