[original photo via AP]
When I entered the Washington Wizards practice court and saw former Kansas Jayhawks forward Thomas Robinson, the first noticeable sight was his physique. So many players come into the NBA as unfinished physical products, and the hope is that they will eventually get stronger and put on what Mark Jackson calls “grown-man weight.” Robinson has that already. And as Bullets Forever’s Mike Prada noticed, he’s built like a middle linebacker.
The next trait of Robinson’s that could not be missed was his confidence. Robinson, and the two players he was working out with, Al’Lonzo Coleman (Presbyterian College) and Kevin Thompson (Morgan State) were tasked with a drill that involved shooting jumpers after sprinting full court. Coleman and Thompson struggled to make it up and down the floor, and their jumpers were inconsistent at best. Robinson also struggled with his shot, but he ran up and down the court with relative ease.
As each of Robinson’s shots left his hand, he yelled phrases like “ballgame,” “that’s money,” and “buckets.” Some went in, some did not, but his confidence, and his vocal urging that these shots go in the basket, did not waver. Who was right there encouraging him when his shots would not fall? Sam Cassell, who never lacked meddle in the confidence department either.
That confidence continued to be on display after the physical portion of Robinson’s workout. He was asked to clarify his statements at last week’s draft combine in Chicago, where he implied that he should be the number one pick in the draft.
“I think I’m the best player in the draft, as far as being prepared for the league. That’s just me being a competitor. I’m not taking anything from Anthony Davis. He’s a great player. At the same time, I want to compete.”
The stiffest test Robinson would face if he were drafted by the Wizards would be his ability to deal with playing in his hometown. Robinson grew up in Southeast D.C. and played at Riverdale Baptist in Upper Marlboro, MD. Not only did he embrace the challenge and call it a “dream come true,” but when asked about his favorite Wizards players, he dropped the names of two of the most polarizing members of the franchise in the past 10 years:
“Gilbert [Arenas], when I was younger. Of course, when we had [Michael] Jordan for a little bit of time. That was pretty cool.”
If you’re scoring at home, Robinson has an NBA-build, supreme confidence, and he would embrace the challenge of playing for the Washington Wizards franchise. When you throw in the fact the he’s now shooting 100o jumpers a day to improve his shot, his comfort with the Wizards staff (“They made me feel like I was a part of the team,” he said.), and his embracing of physical post play (11.9 rebounds to go with 17.7 points at Kansas) it would be easy to begin romanticizing the notion of seeing Thomas Robinson here D.C. Not so fast.
The criticism of Robinson’s game is that he does not fare well inside against athletic big men — something the NBA has in abundance. Plus, the more glaring need for the Washington Wizards is a legitimate backcourt mate for John Wall (something Jordan Crawford would surely take offense to), which makes prospects like Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and even Harrison Barnes, much more attractive as Wizards’ hopefuls.
Still, part of the NBA draft courting process is working out all the possible players, and Thomas Robinson’s return to the D.C. area gave the Wizards a chance to do just that.