Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Robinson had eventful New England reunion
BOSTON — Duncan Robinson's New England reunion was practically perfect, except for the result on the court."It was cool. It a lot of fun to see people in the stands," Robinson said after Wednesday's Miami Heat-Boston Celtics game in TD Garden, "and to know they've supported me for a long time."
Robinson has worked his way into the Miami Heat starting unit. Which isn't too bad for a former Williams College Eph.
The native of New Castle, N.H., made his first game appearance in the Garden on Wednesday night. He was in uniform back on April 1, when the Celtics beat Miami, but was a DNP-Coach's Decision that night.
Not so on Dec. 4, when he played 28 minutes in Boston's 112-93 win. Robinson scored 10 points, had five rebounds, and was saddled with foul trouble all night.
"I got a lot of people here, which is pretty special," Robinson said when we met in the Miami locker room prior to the game.
Robinson had about 100 tickets for the contest. Those in attendance included members of his family, his AAU coach Mike Crotty (the former Williams guard), and Williams Hoop Group stalwarts Don Dagnoli and Mike Deep, not to mention sports information director Dick Quinn, who was documenting the visit.
"It feels a lot different" being in the lineup, he said before the game. "It was pretty cool being able to just be in the building last year. I'm excited to hopefully contribute to a Miami Heat win."
At Williams, Robinson was the D3hoops.com national Rookie of the Year and helped Mike Maker's team reach the D-III championship game. When he was walking down Spring Street, could Duncan Robinson have imagined this.
"You don't want to limit yourself or what you're capable of," he said. "I certainly didn't expect it or anticipate it necessarily."
Robinson is in his second year with Miami, but his first full season on South Beach. Last year, the former Eph and Michigan Wolverine split time between Miami and Sioux Falls, S.D., and the Heat's G-League affiliate.
This year, he is averaging 11 points per game, playing an average of 26.2 minutes. He is shooting 46 percent from the floor and 42.8 percent from 3-point range. Robinson is averaging 16.7 points per 40 minutes and 4.4 rebounds per 40 minutes.
Folks who watched Robinson play at Williams and then at Michigan — where he transferred to after Maker left Williamstown for Division I Marist — saw the ability and could project that maybe some day, he would get paid somewhere to play basketball. But even those fans who bleed purple might not have anticipated the Duncan Robinson scouting report from Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
"I just think he's always been a ridiculously elite shooter," Stevens said when I asked the question.
"I remember when he came in for his draft workout, I was kind of taken aback by how big he is," Stevens said. "He's used that length effectively on the defensive end of the floor. He's smart, he covers the right amount of space, he takes away space without fouling. On the other end he's a threat. All the time, you have to be aware of him, and that's the issue with great shooters on the floor. Some teams, you look at and say it's early in the year and maybe their 3-point numbers will even out. I think these guys are going to be one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the league the entire year."
Robinson had a streak of six consecutive double-figure scoring games end when the Heat beat Washington 112-103 on Friday, as he scored six points, had four rebounds and an assist.
His career-best scoring night came in a 124-100 win over Cleveland, where he scored 29 points.
For his part, the ex-Eph and ex-Wolverine said it was about finding the right fit in an NBA team, and Duncan Robinson admits he was fortunate to land in Miami.
"I think it's huge. Situation can be everything," he said. "I really feel good about this organization. They've been great with me, just the support that they've given to me. All the way through, from the front office to the coaching staff to my teammates, it's been pretty special."
I wondered if there was an "ah-ha" moment this season, when the Duncan Robinson puzzle really fell into place. He said no.
"You just get more and more comfortable," he said. "I feel like I was capable of playing at this level. I've always believed that. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of an extended opportunity.
"Just try to prove myself in practice each and every just make the most of it."
Robinson isn't the only member of the Heat with Division III pedigree. Assistant coach Dan Craig played his college basketball at Plymouth State in New Hampshire. And while Plymouth State never came up on the Williams schedule, he comes from similar hoop starting points.
"His player development has been second to none," said Craig, who ran the Heat on Wednesday because head coach Erik Spoelstra was in Florida awaiting the birth of his second child.
"He's put a ton of time in. He's reaping the benefits of all that time he put in with player development," Craig said. "A lot of that is his shooting, but a lot of it is off the ball too. He's working on every part of his game, and you're starting to see the dividends pay off."
The Heat lost the game to the Celtics, which did not end Duncan Robinson's dream night on the best note. But the former Eph and Wolverine was looking forward to another chance at TD Garden.
"I obviously wish we could have gotten the win" Wednesday night, Duncan Robinson said. "We'll be back here again in the spring."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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