LAS VEGAS -- Thomas Robinson has shown that he's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder ever since the NBA Draft Combine, when he responded to a question about eventual top pick Anthony Davis' shirt that read "CHECK THE STATS" with the following statement:
"If you check the stats, I'll be the number one pick -- easily. I should wear a shirt that says: 'Numbers Don't Lie,'" Robinson said. "I think I play at a different level than everybody else. A different intensity level. Everybody don't show up every night. I'd say I'm one of the players that do."
Robinson eventually fell to the Sacramento Kings with the fifth overall pick when the NBA Draft rolled around last month, but he showed on Friday evening at the NBA Summer League that he's going to live up to his words.
The 6'9 power forward wasn't able to put together the most impressive stat line (he had a solid 19 points to lead the Kings in a loss, but countered that with eight turnovers, five fouls and a semi-paltry five rebounds). That wasn't enough for the big man, though, as he was clearly unhappy with his performance after the game, when he said in an interview with NBA TV's Jared Greenberg that there weren't any positives he could take out of his first Summer League game.
"I played horrible," the forward said rather succinctly, but he actually showed an emerging skill-set in the first game of his professional career, according to Kings assistant general manager Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
"He's a powerful young player with a lot to learn," Abdur-Rahim told SBNation.com after the game. "We'll have to put some work in, but he's a pretty talented player already as he showed at times tonight."
Box score numbers aside, Robinson showed an intensity level rarely seen at Summer League, as he played with the vengeful attitude many predicted when he "fell" to the Kings at No. 5 after being projected to go as high as No. 2 in the draft.
Robinson, who was passed up by the opposing Charlotte Bobcats with the second pick in favor of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, showed that the chip on his shoulder most presumed he'd have after being passed was indeed real. So real, in fact, that he and his matchup -- last year's lottery pick Bismack Biyombo -- got a bit chippy multiple times throughout the game. Robinson didn't back down one bit when confronted by the chiseled big man from the Congo.
Biyombo isn't exactly an established veteran himself, of course, but it was a fun sight to see when the two looked like they might end up going nose-to-nose in what was an otherwise uneventful first day of action.
Aside from the aggression, Robinson also showed a willingness to create for himself. Nobody's going to mistake the former Kansas Jayhawks standout for a point-forward, but Robinson wasn't scared to put the ball on the floor, both in transition or on the drive. It surprised some executives watching in the stands, but it's apparently a known commodity already in his repertoire.
It almost looked like Robinson was trying to show that he can be a combo forward rather than a power forward at times -- there were multiple times when he went to work against Biyombo beginning from beyond the arc -- but Abdur-Rahim assured after the game that his team's new rookie was just using off his abilities.
"No, he's definitely a power forward," Abdur-Rahim said. "He was aggressive, but really he's just a better ball-handler than most people think he is and he showed some of that in this game."
While Robinson obviously has a lot of confidence in his ball-handling skills, it'd have been nicer to see him go to work a bit more in the post. Throughout the game, there were often questions from those in attendance wondering why he'd be on the perimeter instead of in the post, where he'd use just four possessions over the course of his nearly 29 minutes of action.
Summer League should be about experimenting with skills in live-game situations, though, so it's hard to fault Robinson for Friday night's performance. While he was clearly very hard on himself, those in the Kings' front office (such as Abdur-Rahim) as well as the rest of those in attendance could clearly see that Robinson was playing on a different level than most of those on the court in Cox Pavilion. If he keeps it up, Robinson's aggression and tenacity showed that he's going to be one rookie to reckon with when the regular season rolls around.