Philadelphia, PA – The shortest player in the NBA has had the biggest impact on the postseason.
Nate Robinson, stands an average 5 feet, 9 inches tall. That is average by normal human being standards, but in the land of abnormal athletic freaks that is the NBA, Robinson is tiny.
He and Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas are both 5-9. Thomas is presumably watching the postseason somewhere, while Robinson has led the Chicago Bulls to a surprising 1-0 lead in their series with the Miami Heat.
Robinson scored a game-high 27 points on Monday night to help knock off the Heat, who weren't expected to lose another game until Halloween-ish. Robinson had 24 points in the second half and seven of the Bulls' last 10.
This performance came after he dropped 23 in the fourth quarter in Chicago's epic triple-overtime Game 4 win over the Brooklyn Nets in the previous series. He missed the Bulls' record for most points in a playoff quarter by a single point.
The owner of that record, of course, is Michael Jordan.
"God blessed me with a lot of heart and not height," Robinson said. "I'll take that any day."
So will the Bulls.
Robinson is pressed into duty and 40-plus-minute nights because of the Bulls situation at point guard.
Derrick Rose has been medically cleared to play for two months after an ACL tear in last season's playoffs. He isn't playing, but does look sharp in his suits.
Kirk Hinrich has enjoyed an off-an-on season, but had stepped up in the playoffs. Then, he must have stepped on something because he hurt his calf and hasn't suited up since Game 4.
And, even Luol Deng, who plays small forward and went to the All-Star Game, isn't playing. He's been in the ER at least three times in the last week.
So Robinson was pressed into full-time action. Including the Chicago marathon of Game 4, Robinson has averaged 37 minutes and 22.2 ppg in the last five. He is the Bulls' leading scorer in the playoffs and has been every bit the warrior the rest of Chicago's roster has been.
In Game 6, Robinson had the flu and was seen throwing up on camera more often than the cast of "Jersey Shore." In Game 1 against the Heat, Robinson got whacked in the chin and took 10 stitches.
"I told doc to hurry up," Robinson said. "Not trying to rush him, but I wanted to get back out there."
Robinson is a tough player, in the mold of head coach Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the Bulls. They fear nothing, including Robinson, but that doesn't mean the "little man who is" doesn't come without some minor warts.
I think you can make the claim that Robinson is one of the 10 most entertaining players to watch in the NBA. His size, or lack thereof, make what he does breathtaking. Robinson can penetrate and score against bigs. The second-half and fourth-quarter numbers you've seen already indicate he isn't afraid of the moment. People love watching players make huge plays. They want to see greatness.
There's also another argument that says Robinson is one of the 10 players in the league you'd least like to have on your team.
He can be selfish. Nate's never met a shot Nate didn't like. But, that's his job. Robinson is on the floor to score points. He doesn't defend, facilitate or rebound. When he was younger, Robinson started and participated in a lot of skirmishes.
But that part of his career seems to be behind him. Robinson wasn't in the league for a brief period of time before he signed with the Golden State Warriors.
Then, the Bulls brought him in and he played all 82 games for the first time in his career. He flourished and now is helping them do the seemingly impossible.
"I love the energy and passion," Robinson said. "Teammates joke with me and it gives me confidence to go out and play with energy. I love the energy and passion. This is probably the best season I've had with this group of guys. God is good. I'm blessed and thankful to be on this team."
The Bulls are probably thanking the man upstairs for Robinson, too.