LAS VEGAS - Nate Robinson said he's not really a point guard and not really a shooting guard. So what is he?
"I consider myself a whatever-happens guard," he said yesterday.
His place in the Knicks' rotation is as unpredictable as his game, and that's why Robinson agreed to be part of the summer league team, which begins play here against Kevin Durant and the Seattle SuperSonics tonight at Cox Pavilion on the UNLV campus.
Robinson, who is heading into his third NBA season, won't say he feels pressure to show anything this week. But with a lot of guards on the roster in competition for playing time, Robinson's immediate future as a Knick seems to hinge on his ability to get his erratic game under control.
His offense has never been a problem, even with inconsistent playing time. Robinson averaged 10.1 points this past season and had seven 20-plus-point games despite averaging 21.2 minutes. He shot 43 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three-point range.
But he had only 90 assists (1.4 per game) with 72 turnovers (1.1 per game), which is a sign of his inability to control the ball and set up his teammates.
And the part of Robinson's game that needs the most improvement? "Decision-making for me, right now," the 5-9 ball of energy said. "Not getting out of control at times."
Then he explained why that's such a challenge: "But to me, my out-of-control is my control. It's kind of weird to juggle both at the same time."
Isiah Thomas, who arrived Saturday night to watch the workouts and games, said he doesn't want Robinson to change his game too dramatically. But there's no doubt Robinson's erratic play drove Thomas to distraction throughout the past season.
"He's had some growing pains within the game, but the way he's going about competing and working on his game, I like everything about him," Thomas said. "I'm not encouraging him to change too much of his game because I like what he does. I just want him to get better at it."
Assistant coach Dave Hanners, who is running the summer league team, said Robinson needs "reps" at point guard. The summer league will provide a good opportunity for Robinson to get to know the Knicks' offensive system better. And the Knicks can get a sense of whether Robinson fits into their plans.
"I don't think he's going to become this point guard in the summer league," Thomas said. "That's not what I'm looking for. But I do want him to continue to get better."
Notes & quotes: Thomas said he is not pursuing any trades but is looking into any opportunities that would improve the Knicks. He also said it would have to take a major deal to include David Lee in anything. "We have no intentions of moving him," Thomas said. Right now the most intriguing option - Sacramento's Ron Artest - is believed to be on the back burner and might never come to fruition as long as the Kings insist on getting Lee in return. Artest has an opt-out after the coming season and is expected to exercise it for a bigger payday, so it is believed Thomas doesn't want to give up too much, even if adding Artest makes the Knicks a serious contender in the East.