Thomas Robinson working hard to earn a spot with the Los Angeles Lakers
Thomas Robinson was the last player off the court after the Lakers’ midday practice Tuesday, just as he has been after nearly every practice this fall. So if Robinson is the last player cut before next week’s regular-season opener, it won’t be for a lack of effort.
“It’s out of my hands now,” Robinson said after slumping wearily into a folding chair, his uniform soaked in sweat. “I feel like I’ve done everything I can to this point to give myself the best shot that I can to make this team. It’s up to the front office now.”
It was never supposed to be like this for Robinson, a consensus All-American at Kansas and the fifth pick in the 2012 draft. By now he was supposed to be an NBA All-Star, a game-changing power forward with a soft shot and physical presence on the boards.
Instead he’s a journeyman at 25, been traded three times and waived once. In four seasons with five teams, he has started only 11 games.
“You don’t want to lose your job, so I guess it’s all or nothing,” said Robinson who, along with small forward Metta World Peace is one of only two players in camp without guaranteed contracts.
“Any time I’ve been traded I knew I was still getting paid, I knew my checks were still coming in,” Robinson continued. “My back’s against the wall right now so of course it’s scary.”
Lakers Coach Luke Walton said that whoever gets the final roster spot probably won’t play much. So his decision will be heavily influenced by factors other than what happens on the court.
“A lot of times, in those last roster spot type of things, it’s just as important to get a good guy that’s going to be good around the locker room as it is a talented player,” Walton said. “So we’re looking at everything: overall performance, how hard they work, what kind of teammate they are.”
World Peace, who has won effusive praise from the coach, gets high marks in all those categories. But he turns 37 next month and has played in only one exhibition — for less than six minutes.
“I’ve been a big fan of Metta since I got here,” Walton said. “I love what Metta brings to the locker room. Shows up and works every day. That’s a phenomenal example to set for the young guys.”
Yi Jianlian, who turns 29 next week, also is on the roster bubble. Reportedly guaranteed $250,000 of his $8 million salary, he has played 39 minutes in four exhibitions, scoring 11 points and taking 10 rebounds. Robinson also has appeared in four exhibitions, scoring 16 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in 32 minutes. Walton said that Robinson is also the best shooter of the three and brings a lot of energy.
“It’s going to be a tough call,” he said.
A call Robinson hopes will go his way.
“I’m going for the win so I’m not concerned with the other two,” he said. “I love them as teammates for the moment. But at the end of the day, in my mind, I have to look at it as if I’m making the team.”
Slip slidin’ away
Wednesday’s exhibition against the Golden State Warriors at the Valley View Casino Arena in San Diego is significant to Walton for two reasons. For starters, the game will be something of a homecoming for Walton, who grew up in San Diego. Then there was the exhibition he coached at the casino last fall, one that was called late in the third quarter because of a slippery floor.
“A week before the regular season and we’ve got our all-stars sliding on every other play,” remembered Walton, who was Golden State’s interim coach at the time. “Obviously you want to play them for the fans that paid good money to come see [them]. But at the same time you’ve got to worry about them not getting injured.
“They assured us we won’t have that issue again.”
As for the homecoming, Walton said a lot of friends and family are coming out, though for him it’s strictly a business trip — so much so that he has put his mom in charge of gathering the tickets.
“Anyone who texts me, I tell them to text her and she gets it all together.”
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