Jerome Robinson has seen a lot in his first 15 months in the NBA.
The 6-foot-5 guard has been part of three distinctly different Clippers rosters, recovered from a foot injury, produced big statistics in the G League, struggled in stretches against NBA competition and provided a postseason boost off the bench.
But one week into his second training camp, what he’s yet to experience is consistency.
After forcing shots and missing several open looks in a preseason-opening loss Thursday against Houston, Robinson scored nine points and added eight assists and six rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench Sunday in a 127-87 blowout of the Shanghai Sharks.
It was an outing coach Doc Rivers called encouraging because Robinson played within the flow of the game.
“He just made simple plays,” Rivers said. “We don’t need him to be a playmaker. We have Lou [Williams], we have Kawhi [Leonard], we have Paul George, we have whoever our point is. We need him to make plays off the players, and I think he did a better job of that.”
With the Clippers having such a deep roster, even a recent first-round pick such as Robinson is not guaranteed minutes. Carving out a role with the second-team backcourt appears to hinge on Robinson finding the balance between aggressively looking for and taking good shots while also facilitating for others.
“Jerome just has to learn to play off of people,” Rivers said. “I thought he forced way too much [in the first game], and it’s tough for college kids. They were the man in college. Now we’re telling them shoot, pass, get out of the way, and that’s tough, but that’s the role that they all have to learn.”
A year ago, during Robinson’s first NBA preseason, the Clippers prodded him to be less deferential when presented with open shot opportunities because scoring is why they drafted him 13th overall in 2018.
He earned honorable mention All-American honors at Boston College after averaging 20.7 points a game as a junior. That number increased to 24.3 points against conference opponents, an average exceeded by only two Atlantic Coast Conference players since 1993.
By the end of his first preseason, Robinson understood he had a proverbial green light to shoot when he had good looks, but his progress stalled when a lingering foot injury from training camp sent him to the G League for 24 games.
He built confidence in that league, averaging nearly 19 points, but the time away from the NBA roster made finding a foothold in Rivers’ rotation difficult. Still, he averaged 9.2 minutes in a first-round playoff series against Golden State and was praised by Rivers for being ready to contribute.
Robinson entered training camp last month more at ease with his surroundings — he is one of only five Clippers back from last year’s training camp roster — but his attempt to become a consistent contributor nonetheless began unevenly, beginning with his three-for-12 shooting Thursday against Houston.
When Robinson passed up an open three-pointer from the corner Sunday, he was chastised by teammate Montrezl Harrell for not taking the shot.
But Robinson also recorded five assists during his first six minutes in the second quarter and later brought teammates to their feet by making a pull-up three-pointer in transition and racing to the rim for a second-half dunk with his right hand.
Rivers was more concerned with Robinson’s decision-making than his shooting percentage, and by that measure, Sunday was promising.
“Some games will be two points, some games will be 15 points, just play the game, play it the right way,” Robinson said. “As long as we’re winning, I’m OK. I’m cool with that.”
Robinson’s performance wasn’t the only one that improved from the first game to the second. After a flat game against Houston, the Clippers’ intensity picked up against Shanghai.
“Forget what we ran, who we were playing. I thought we came out with the right purpose,” Rivers said. “I thought with the Houston game, we just showed up to play the game. I thought Houston actually came into the game with intent. Serious, working on their stuff. We just kind of showed up. … [Sunday], we had the right mind-set.”
The Clippers will return to practice Tuesday, and Leonard, who took part in a full practice for the first time Saturday, is expected to ramp up his participation. As he and George become more involved, the offense will take shape.
“Next week, [Leonard] should practice a lot more,” Rivers said, “so then we’ll start putting in more stuff.”