With the news that restricted free-agent guard Nate Robinson has agreed to re-sign with the New York Knicks on a one-year deal came this Twitter tidbit (Tweetbit?) from Knicks beat reporter Alan Hahn:
LAL, ORL among teams that were interested in @nate_robinson
He added this note for clarification a few moments later, in response to my "re-tweeting" his original missive:
@3QCMagic not trying to suggest something was in the works with ORL. But there was interest in him.
This update comes a few months after the start of the free-agency period, during which other NBA reporters, among them Howard Beck of the New York Times, also linked Robinson and the Magic. It's enough to make one actually believe that GM Otis Smith actively pursued Robinson, although as Hahn indicated, he may never have had formal discussions about Robinson with his agent, Aaron Goodwin.
The rumor, though, sounds ludicrous. What could Robinson, a 5'09" shooting guard who coasts on defense, possibly offer the Magic? That's what some media members discussed during the Orlando Pro Summer League, when the rumor started circulating; one reporter wondered aloud if the Magic's locker room was big enough to contain the egos of both Robinson and All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson.
Defensive and chemistry issues aside, Robinson would have provided the Magic with much-needed scoring off the bench; Orlando rated 15th among the league's 30 teams in bench scoring per 100 possessions, according to 82games. For New York last season, Robinson averaged 17.2 points per game in just 29.9 minutes, which equates to 20.7 points per 36 minutes played. For comparison's sake, that figure would have tied Dwight Howard for the lead on last year's Magic team. And while it's tempting to think of the diminutive Robinson as a gunner, as most undersize shooting guards are, consider that he committed turnovers on just 10.7% of his possessions, and that his offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 113 is extraordinary for a high-usage player. Last season, Robinson was one of 14 players who used at least one-quarter of their team's possessions, committed turnovers on fewer than 12% of their own possessions, and posted an offensive rating of at least 113.
Ultimately, this rumor doesn't mean much for the Magic as they stand now. Even without Robinson's dynamic scoring, they still have one of the deepest benches in the league; Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat are talented enough to start for most teams. Ditto for Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus, although one of them will indeed start for Orlando at small forward.
A final note on this rumor: if Goodwin's name sounds familiar, it should. He represents Magic superstar Dwight Howard, as well as Barnes, who just signed with Orlando. And as Barnes informed the media during his introductory availability session, Howard expedited the process of Barnes' joining the Magic, and he almost signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers instead. If Howard brokered a deal between the Magic and Barnes, he almost certainly could have done the same with them and Robinson, if he needed to.
If Orlando is still interested in Robinson, it'll have its chance to sign him next summer, when he'll become an unrestricted free agent.