An early-season practice was over, but Nate Robinson wasn’t yet finished with teammate Evan Fourier. He had points to make. Many more points to make. And he was making them in megaphone style. If you were in the gym, you were in earshot. If you were not Fournier, you were cracking up. If you were Fournier, eh, it wasn’t as funny.
But it was all Nate.
Being Nate Robinson means being in perpetual motion. The jokes come at rapid-fire speed. The angst does too. It all leads to one of the unique experiences in the league — being a teammate, or coach, of Nate Robinson.
What’s it like having Nate Robinson on the basketball team?
“Ah, I can’t even answer that without laughing,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said.
Having Robinson around is a lot of things, a lot of very different things. A lot of very expected and unexpected things. A lot of very frustrating and funny things. In 2½ months, Nuggets players and coaches are getting the full, uncut version of the whirlwind of everything that is being in the same space as Nate Robinson.
And they’ve loved nearly every minute of it.
“It’s never a dull moment,” Nuggets guard Ty Lawson said. “On and off the court.”
In practice it’s a constant stream of basketball-centric language, G-rated and not so G-rated. On the team bus or the charter plane (or train), it’s a constant stream of anything.
“He’s a comedian, a funny guy,” guard Randy Foye said. “A ball of energy. Always talking.”
Foye insists “every team has a Nate Robinson.”
But only the Nuggets have THE Nate Robinson.
“He’s a hilarious guy,” Foye said. “He’s always doing something to keep the team going. He’ll set guys up to do practical jokes that way. He’ll say stuff to everybody, coaches, everybody.”
Shaw has already gotten the full monty from Robinson. So, again, what’s it like having Robinson on the team?
“It’s fun. It’s challenging,” Shaw said, smiling. “But it’s nice to know that you have a weapon that can come in with energy — and it’s not always good energy — but with energy and be a threat out there on the floor. And a threat can be a good thing, and it can be a bad thing too. You have to live with what comes with the package. So that means he’s going to get into it with the referees, he’s going to get into it with his own teammates, he’s going to get into it with the coaching staff. But it all comes from a good place — he’s competitive and he wants to win. That’s what I love about him.”
In the world of sneaker collecting, some people like amassing a deep stash of more easily obtainable shoes, like every latest Jordan Retro or the newest Kobe launches. Which is totally fine with us, of course.
And then there are collectors like Byron Warouw, who patiently peruse the internets for their niche interests, which in Byron’s case, includes all things Seattle. A longtime area resident and huge fan of the Emerald City’s sports franchises, Warouw has been collecting Sonics, Mariners and Seahawks memorabilia for almost two decades now.
One of his favorite players over that span is of course “The Glove,” Gary Payton. After initially picking up just a few of GP’s PEs and game-worn kicks during the late 1990′s, Warouw has since become the ultimate collector of nearly every sneaker Payton wore on-court with the Sonics. From Hawk Flights to Maestros, Gloves to Air Alarms and even most of his Zoom GP series, Warouw has all but a handful in his possession.
We recently caught up in Seattle on the steps of KeyArena with Byron (who has an unreal Instagram feed of even more GP & Seattle related memorabilia) to hear all about how he started collecting Payton’s game-worn shoes, which pairs were the hardest to track down, and of course, which ones he likes most.
Stay tuned all week long for detailed looks at his extensive GP collection, including his entire Ultraflight set, Glove set and other models ike the Zoom GP. If you’re looking to add a Seattle-inspired pair of the Zoom Glove to your collection, be sure to check out our “Sonic Wave” Zoom Glove collaboration, releasing this Saturday at House Of Hoops location nationwide.
Zack Schlemmer: How did you originally get started collecting Gary Payton stuff?
Byron Warouw: Well, my dad took me to a hotel they were at back in ’91, and that’s when I first met GP; he was still a rookie. It was cool because that was also the first year that my parents sprung [the money] for expensive Nikes. So I had the Command Forces and the matching jacket, and I had him sign the jacket. I still have it on my wall and it’s inscribed, “To Byron, best wishes. –Gary Payton, #2” And he never wore #2 after his first season, so that’s one thing that, when you see it, it was right in that time period. It all started back then, and just kind of went from there.
ZS: So it started not with shoes, but with just being a fan?
BW: Yeah, my Gary Payton stuff didn’t start with shoes. I didn’t start collecting his shoes until the late 90’s.
Nick DePaula: So all through the 90’s, you were a big Sonics fan and were just grabbing and going on whatever Sonics stuff you could – autographs, jerseys…
BW: Yeah! Whatever I could get. Whatever I could get the players to sign. It wasn’t so much focused on Gary Payton stuff at the beginning, just as more of a sports fan. As I got older and got money, that’s when it became more focused on GP. In ’95 was when I graduated high school, and of course, 95 and 96 was crazy for Seattle.
The Mariners and Sonics, so that’s when things kind of started to ramp up with my collection and of course when you’re at that age, you want the shoes the players are wearing and you start getting the good general release stuff.
Damian Lillard was criticized a lot last season for his defense.
This season, Lillard is expending more energy, he’s more experienced and he is making more plays on the defensive end than he did last year.
Two times in the past week, Lillard made two blocks on jumpers. One in the waning moments of their win against the Lakers and another on a Paul George 3-pointer in their win against Indiana, even though George got the ball back and drained a three.
One reason for Lillard being able to spend more energy on the defensive end has been the presence of Mo Williams, who usually takes the responsibility of guarding the other team’s primary ball handler when he is on the court.
“Yeah because he puts a lot of pressure on the ball the last minute and a half he was working his butt off,” Lillard said about Williams’ defense against the Indiana Pacers. “It was some possessions where I was on the other side of the floor and my man was just waiting for a screen. Having a guy that I can interchange with and not have to always be guarding the ball or pushing the ball up against pressure and get us into the offense helps out a lot.”
Something else that has helped the Blazers defensively so far is that head coach Terry Stotts has also been creative in changing match-ups, specifically late in games.
PHILADELPHIA – He’s such a class act and I want you to know about him, but as soon as I typed Willie Green’s name here, I stopped reading.
I know if I start telling you about his basketball prowess, and it’s amazing because he’s lasted in the NBA 11 years, I’m going to fail Willie Green.
We all know he’s still a NBA nobody, a Clipper now averaging four points a game and the only way he makes ESPN is if LeBron leaps over his head to dunk.
So to better know the man, the most professional player assistant coach Alvin Gentry says he’s ever been around and he’s been with Steve Nash and Grant Hill, I begin with the very worst moment in Willie Green’s life.
It was just a little less than three years ago. Green had just played a basketball game for New Orleans in his hometown of Detroit, his cousin and sister in attendance, hugs, kisses and goodbyes all around.
Green joined his teammates for the flight to Indiana only to get a 5 a.m. phone call and the jolting news his cousin and sister were now dead.
“I was telling my wife this the other day,” he says. “I didn’t really have time to grieve, and I should have. But as men we try to be strong for our families. And when you get into the position where I am financially, there’s a lot of responsibility thrust on you.
“So I came right into town to make sure the coffins were taken care of, the funeral home, the bodies and I never had the time to grieve. I took control so my parents wouldn’t have to do so.”
He replays those kisses, hugs and final goodbyes in his mind all the time, he says, the last one in his family to speak to both.
His sister had a 1-year-old son, who is now being raised by Green’s parents, and he says he tries to reflect and grieve on the devastating family loss, but he cannot stay there long.
“My cousin was like my brother,” he says, and his cousin was driving drunk when the car went out of control and off the road.
I ask if he was angry at his cousin for taking away his sister, and anyone who really knows Willie Green already knows the answer, but I’m still learning about him.
“I’m grateful for the time I had with both of them,” he says, but I still want to know if he was mad. “It is scary how you can lose two people you love and so suddenly.
“But I’m not mad; I’m disappointed. What good is it going to do to carry anger around? It’s educated me more than ever on the importance of not drinking and getting in a car to drive. But I’m not mad.”
So when it comes to the disappointment in his basketball career, so minor by comparison, it’s no surprise the guy is rock solid.
After Monday night’s 106-102 victory over Indiana, Damian Lillard met the media wearing a designer T-shirt inscribed with “Billionaire” across the front.
And why not? Lillard isn’t as rich as his team’s owner, billionaire Paul Allen, but he’s in America’s highest tax bracket as point guard of one of the NBA’s elite teams.
Elite? Sounds funny to say that about a Trail Blazers club that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2000, but it’s the truth. Portland is on a short list of teams that have a chance to win a championship this season, and Lillard’s as big a reason as any.
After unanimously winning NBA rookie-of-the-year honors in 2012-13, Lillard is playing even better in helping Portland become the league’s surprise team a month into the season. The 6-3 point guard is averaging 20.6 points and 5.7 assists. He is shooting only .396 from the field but is .403 from 3-point range and ranks eighth in the NBA in free-throw percentage at .907.
“He was so darn good last year,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel says. “I don’t know if he has dramatically improved this year, but their team has improved, and he is an elite point guard. I was blown away with his efficiency, poise and shot-making ability as a rookie.”
Lillard’s defense — a liability a year ago — has improved. In Sunday’s win over the L.A. Lakers at Staples Center, he made two big plays on the Lakers’ Jodie Meeks in the deciding final moments, first deflecting a pass that turned into a steal and a Portland basket, then rising to block a Meeks shot with the game still on the line. In Monday’s win over Indiana, Lillard blocked a Paul George 3-point attempt in the closing seconds to help preserve the victory over the team with the NBA’s best record.
“The most important thing for Damian this season wasn’t necessarily going to show up in his stats,” coach Terry Stotts says. “He is being more efficient playing a couple of minutes less than last year. He has taken the challenge at the defensive end and improved there. He is doing a lot of the same things as a year ago, but has a better control, a better understanding not only of his game, but of the team game.”