The pass whipped to Jerome Robinson’s waiting hands on the wing Saturday evening, and the rookie set his feet beyond the three-point line and shot without hesitation.
It was a miss, one of many on a poor shooting night for the Clippers in a 103-87 preseason victory against the Lakers at the Honda Center.
Beyond the box score, Robinson’s attempt counted as something else — a lesson learned.
Robinson was drafted 13th overall in June’s NBA draft because of his ability to score. He averaged 20.7 points last season as a junior at Boston College, the second-highest average in the ACC, and shoots with effortless form. It’s so nice that Clippers brass want to see him be less deferential and use it more often.
“He’s so unselfish … in college you typically don’t take the first open shot, they want you to move the ball,” coach Doc Rivers said. “What we’re trying to convince him is the first open shot may be your last open shot in the NBA.”
That was almost the case Saturday against the Lakers. Robinson took his lone shot during a seven-minute stretch in the first half, then didn’t return until nine minutes remained in the fourth quarter, when he drove to the rim on a handoff before being blocked. With four minutes to play he faked his defender into the air before making a step-back three that caused teammate Patrick Beverley to jump up from his sideline seat.
Robinson finished with three points in 16 minutes. Lou Williams scored a team-high 19 points and Tobias Harris added 18.
“There has been times in college when I made the right pass and my coach was like ‘Shoot, I’d rather you shoot!’ That happens, and I feel like I’m a really good shooter. I get that occasionally but I’m trying to make the right play when it might have been just easier for me to shoot it.”
Robinson sprained the wrist on his shooting hand during workouts leading up to the draft and played through the injury during summer league in Las Vegas before “shutting it down.” He fractured the same wrist three years before, entering his freshman season at Boston College. It hasn’t affected his willingness to shoot, he said, because he feels no lingering effects.
The Clippers’ shooting as a whole was off Saturday.
After making one of their nine three-point attempts in the first half, they shot 28.6% from behind the arc for the game and 41.1% overall. Beverley, Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic were given the night off to rest while Luc Mbah a Moute sat with a strained right calf.
The team will next play Tuesday at Staples Center against Denver.
While fellow rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has carved out a substantial role in Rivers’ rotation, Robinson has played spot minutes in the preseason and coaches have emphasized that every shred of playing time must count. Robinson understands that and has worked on his game.
Before tipoff Saturday he took a seat courtside to watch film with assistant J.P. Clark, then returned for a second video session a few minutes later.
He’s also still earning the trust of a locker room stocked with veterans. He went through the same transition as he entered college as well.
“You always go in there and you’re like, I don’t want to step on nobody’s toes, you know?” Robinson said.
Rivers understands that reticence, while trying to break the rookie from it.
Rivers started his coaching career in Orlando, where rookie Mike Miller was so deferential that Rivers made the team run, and Miller watch, whenever he passed up a shot.
“I don’t think it’s gonna get to that point with Jerome; I have a feeling,” Rivers said. “I’d always rather correct the other way of not shooting, and he’s also an excellent playmaker, so you want him to continue to be that too, so you’ve got to walk that fine line, but he’ll be there.”