Thomas Robinson: "Given the opportunity, I could easily be among NBA's Top 10 rebounders"

Thomas Robinson: "Given the opportunity, I could easily be among NBA's Top 10 rebounders"

Lakers

Thomas Robinson: "Given the opportunity, I could easily be among NBA's Top 10 rebounders"

After playing for six NBA teams in five seasons, Thomas Robinson is hoping to ink a multi-year deal that will give him the continuity he’s never had throughout the course of his professional career.

“I just want that stability,” Robinson told HoopsHype. “I want to be comfortable. I think every player is looking for that. If I have that, I feel like I can open up my game to another level and help a team even more. I’ve been through a lot since I entered the league. Being in the same place for more than one year – with the same players, the same coaching staff, the same system – would only help me get better. It would allow me to be more comfortable. And if you let me get comfortable, there’s no telling what you’ll get from me.

“I just want a chance. I want to show an organization that I’m going to be mature, work well with the coaches, earn their confidence, get playing time and then do the right thing on the court when I get those minutes. I can say right now to whichever team signs me: I promise I won’t let you down.”

Last season, Robinson suited up for the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 0.5 steals in 11.7 minutes. Per-36-minutes, that translates to 15.5 points, 14.3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.7 steals.

He posted a career-high PER (17.3) and True Shooting Percentage (53.5 percent). The 26-year-old enjoyed his time in Los Angeles and would love to re-sign with the Lakers.

“I could definitely see myself re-signing with the Lakers,” Robinson said. “Business-wise, family-wise and basketball-wise, it makes sense for me. I have a lot of things going for me out here – there are so many opportunities and resources and people I connected with in Los Angeles who helped me. With my family, we were able to get comfortable. It would mean a lot to just stay put here.

“When you play for the Lakers, you’re on a bigger stage and I think that actually helped me. When you play well here, people notice that. I don’t really care about how I’m perceived, but I did notice a shift in how people think of my game this past year and it was because they saw me play more.”

Lakers head coach Luke Walton also helped Robinson in Los Angeles. The power forward raved about his experience with the first-time head coach.

“He’s going to be great,” Robinson said of Coach Walton. “He has it all figured out already. Luke is such a hard worker; he was the same way when he was a player. His hard work and his amazing basketball IQ definitely translated over to coaching. He knows how to coach different types of players. For me, individually, he helped me keep my confidence up this whole year. Every minute I played for him, he was building me up. Even if I messed up, he would help me and make sure I got it right next time. It was never about hurting my confidence or telling me, ‘Never try that again.’ Parts of my game opened up this year because Luke was allowing me to grow. If I messed something up the first time, he made sure I got it right the next three times. That’s huge for a player, having a coach work with you like that and build your confidence. He did that with everyone. When Brandon [Ingram] was struggling a bit early in the year, he kept telling him to be aggressive and helped him grow. In the second half of the season, Brandon got comfortable and looked like a completely different player. That was all Luke.”

One aspect of Robinson’s game that Coach Walton helped him unleash was his mid-range game. Robinson shot a career-high 53.6 percent from the field this past season. Finishing a career-best 64.3 percent of his shots in the paint helped his percentage, but the biggest difference for Robinson was his drastically improved shooting from three-to-10 feet. He shot 46.3 percent on these mid-range attempts after knocking down just 23 percent of his shots from that distance the year before.

“When I get into the middle of the paint, 10-to-12 feet from the basket, I feel like I’m dangerous now,” Robinson said. “My confidence is sky high now because I saw my shooting percentages jump a lot in that range this past season. Now, I feel like I can destroy people from that area, so I’m going to continue to work on that.

“I’m also going to continue working on my basketball IQ. Last year, my ball-handling improved, so now the next step is to improve my court vision and decision-making so I can make plays for others off of those pick-and-rolls.”

The energy that Robinson provides continues to be one of his biggest strengths. He says he wants his name to be synonymous with “energy and hustle and toughness.”

Last season, his Total Rebound Percentage of 21.8 percent would’ve ranked fifth in the NBA (behind only Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside and Dwight Howard) had he received enough minutes to qualify for the leaderboard. Robinson believes that he can be an elite rebounder if put in the right situation.

“Given the opportunity, I could easily be among the Top 10 rebounders in the league. Easily,” Robinson said. “Not only am I a better rebounder now than I was back in the day, I know what to do after I get the rebound. My basketball IQ and vision have improved so now I realize that I don’t need to go up immediately every time I get an offensive rebound or try to start a fast-break on my own when I get a defensive rebound.

“I look at a guy like Tristan Thompson, for example, and what he does well. What people love about him is he’ll get the rebound and then immediately look for one of his shooters or he’ll set up a dribble hand-off. I think that’s where I’ve improved the most – what I do after I grab the rebound. I watch Tristan a lot because he’s consistent and he’s a key contributor on a contending team. He’s made a living off of playing this way. I can look at someone like Tristan and say, ‘This is my type of game.’ He stays in his lane; you don’t see Tristan doing things outside of his game. I want to have a similar impact, while continuing to mature and get better.”

During the offseason, a typical day for Robinson has him at the facility by 7:30 am for yoga or pilates. From 8 am to 9 am, he’s lifting weights. At noon, he has an on-court workout. Then, he’s back at the gym at night to get up shots and do more skill work.

“I’m working my ass off,” Robinson said. “I’ve been around the facility every day working out; I think I can count on one hand the number of days I’ve missed since the season ended.”

Between bouncing around the NBA early in his career and life-changing events such as recently having a daughter, Robinson has matured and changed his priorities.

“I’ve grown so much as a player and as a person,” Robinson said. “I think I’ve gotten better because of everything I’ve been through. I know I’m a player who can compete at a high level in the NBA, and I feel like my style of play can fit with any team. I’m not the same player I was when I first came into the league. I’m way more mature now. I’m a grown man now. I have a child to support, so I have to be focused and locked in. Getting older, I understand the importance of just sticking in one place all summer and focusing on improving. This will be the second summer in a row that I’ve just locked in and worked on my game non-stop.

“I also feel like my leadership skills have gotten better because I’ve seen a lot of things that younger players haven’t seen. I’ve been around a lot of superstar players; every team I’ve been on, I’ve developed a close relationship with the top guys. I think I have a lot of knowledge that I can pass onto rookies and younger players. Even though I’m only 26 years old, I have a lot of experience because I’ve been in different situations. I’ve noticed that younger players listen to me, and I want to pass on everything I’ve learned.”

Even though Robinson’s future in Los Angeles is unclear, he admits that he’s excited about the Lakers’ direction. He believes Lonzo Ball will be a huge addition for the team since he’s such a good facilitator.

“Players are excited to be on the court with him,” Robinson said of Ball. “You know he’s going to get you the ball, or you know he’s going to get the ball to the guy you just got open because of your screen. A lot of players won’t admit it or say it out loud, but when you have a great pass-first point guard out there with you, guys will cut harder and set the screen harder and play with a different energy because they’re confident they’ll get the ball or that the play will develop the right way. When you have five guys playing with that kind of effort, great things happen.”

Robinson also weighed in on Paul George’s rumored interest in the Lakers. While George was recently traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Robinson thinks joining Los Angeles as a free agent following next season is a no-brainer for the superstar small forward.

“It’s simple to me: If I was Paul George, I would join the Lakers,” Robinson said. “This is where your legacy is built. He’s already a great player, already established. But if he comes out here and changes this franchise, they’re going to love him. If he changes this organization and gets the Lakers back to the playoffs? If he gets them into the Western Conference Finals and competing for rings? The electricity and excitement will be crazy. It won’t be the same anywhere else. It’s different here. We know that. We’ve seen that. I don’t care who you are, this is a different platform. This is where you can build a legacy.”

It remains to be seen if Robinson will be back in a purple and gold jersey next year. The Lakers seem open to re-signing him, but he has also received interest from teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves. At this point, Robinson just wants a place to settle down.

“I’m ready to just find a home,” Robinson said. “I just want to do my job and take care of my family.”

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