Duncan Robinson has taken a unique path to the NBA.
The Miami Heat forward started his college career at Division III Williams College before transferring to the University of Michigan. Then Robinson went undrafted before signing a two-way contract with the Heat in the summer of 2018.
Now, Robinson is in his first full season on a standard NBA contract and has played in each of the Heat’s first six games entering Tuesday’s road matchup against the Nuggets.
“This is a big time credit to Duncan,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has perseverance about him that’s unique. A relentless work ethic. He’ll work on the things he needs to. Obviously, his shooting is not by accident. He has put in a lot of hours behind the scenes to hone that stroke. But for him to play for us, he really had to improve his body, which he did. He gained 15 pounds, and that’s legitimate. You can see it.”
Adding muscle to his 6-7, 215-pound frame isn’t the only thing that Robinson did this summer. He worked on his on-ball defense ... a lot.
“He has really drilled and worked on his team defense and his fundamentals defensively, starting in the offseason every single day,” Spoelstra said. “Our coaching staff, particularly Chris Quinn, was unmerciful on him in drilling him over and over and over.”
Robinson, 25, can confirm that.
“Oh, yeah. Just defense,” Robinson said. “We did it every single day. A lot of times summer workouts are skill stuff. We did our fair share of that, obviously. But we were just hammering defense every single day and just made it a priority. I’ve always been able to shoot it at a high level. But they had a bigger vision, that for me to get on the floor that I was going to need to grow in those areas.”
The defensive drills included competitive scenarios that forced Robinson to get through screens and remain in front of his man.
That summer work has translated to playing time this season. Robinson entered Tuesday averaging 11.3 points while shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 50 percent on threes in 22.3 minutes over the Heat’s first six games.
“I’m just so much more comfortable on the defensive end,” said Robinson, who finished Sunday’s win over the Rockets with a career-high 23 points and seven made threes. “I have a much better understanding of what we’re trying to achieve on that end and just our defensive principles. I can kind of use my IQ to just be in the right spots. Then I’ve grown a lot in terms of on the ball and fighting through screens and that sort of thing.”
For a player who admits he didn’t know if he could make it in the NBA until he started having success in the G League last year, the start to the season has helped Robinson’s confidence.
Robinson knows his role this season: To stay ready.
“I’m going to kind of be a guy that needs to get inserted at times here and there, whether a guy steps out or foul trouble or whatever,” Robinson said. “I embrace it, and I welcome it with open arms. ... It’s just my job to be ready for when my opportunities come and not necessarily expect them to happen. Just be ready when they do.”
Not doing it for show
As part of a recent appearance on the “Winging It with Vince Carter” podcast, Jimmy Butler was asked about his 3 a.m. workouts. When answering the question, Butler brought up Cavaliers forward Kevin Love.
During the preseason, Love questioned Butler’s early workouts and said, “I think there are some things that are for show.”
“I do that all the time,” Butler said on the podcast hosted by Annie Finberg and Hawks forward Vince Carter. “Somebody was telling me that K-Love was like, ‘Oh, he does it for show.’ It’s like, ‘[Expletive], you come do what I do.’ People don’t understand, I do this [expletive] every day in the summer. If you know me, and you get up and you work the way that I work, you see that it’s not for show. If it was for show, I would have been the one to put it on the internet. I don’t talk about it, I just go do it, and then people ask me about it.”
During Butler’s appearance on the podcast, he also revealed he got the idea for his early workouts from Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg, whose daily routine includes a 3:40 a.m. workout.
“I’ve never seen nobody work like that dude,” Butler said. “And to like have everything, you know what I’m saying? Beautiful family, all the money in the world, yada, yada, yada. But that man gets up and grinds like he has nothing. When I saw that, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. If I want to get to where he is in my craft, it only makes sense to do what he’s doing.’ And I took off from there.”
▪ The Heat is hopeful that forwards Justise Winslow (lower back tightness) and Derrick Jones (left groin strain) will be able to play Tuesday night against the Nuggets. Winslow and Jones went through the Heat’s Tuesday morning shootaround.
Rookie forward KZ Okpala (left Achillies strain) will not play against the Nuggets.