LAS VEGAS — Thomas Robinson, like many of the other young Portland Trail Blazers, knows how important this offseason is for the team.
“We have eight guys that are two years into their deal,” Robinson said in the team’s exit interviews in May. “Of course we will seek wherever the organization seeks to get help, but one of those guys has to step up. Maybe even two.”
Robinson hasn’t made it a secret he wants to be one of those two guys to step up into a big role and All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge said in exit interviews that he “definitely would like to see T-Rob come back.”
One of Robinson’s main focuses has been working on his jump shot.
“I’m working. It’s not going to happen overnight. I’ve been shooting my arms off. I just know that if I can hit that it would make things easiest for me,” Robinson said.
In the offseason, Robinson has been working closely with Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool, who is sharing the head coaching duties this summer with fellow assistant Nate Tibbetts.
Vanterpool has been a witness to Robinson’s work ethic.
“First of all, he’s worked his tail off,” Vanterpool said. “He wants to get better, he wants to improve and I really want him to be patient with a lot of things and let things happen as opposed to making things happen.”
“He’s always had good work ethic, I’ve known him since we were teenagers,” said Will Barton, probably Robinson’s closest friend on the team. “He’s a guy like me, he wants it bad, he wants to be in the rotation, he wants to be a good player in this league. So, he’s a guy that’s always on his grind and right now he’s just hoping the ball bounces his way.”
Since the end of the season, Robinson said that he felt more comfortable making plays than he did before he came to the Blazers.
But, Vanterpool wants Robinson to remain focused on what he can do for the Blazers right now.
“He’s an energy guy, he can make things happen off the glass, he can make things happen whether he touches the ball or not,” Vanterpool said. “I want him being patient running the floor and not touching the ball and understanding somebody will find you or you’ll create a situation for another player.”
With Aldridge in the fold and saying he wants to re-sign for five more years after next season, it’s not hard to connect the dots and see there won’t be a starting spot opening up for Robinson any time soon.
Improving his jumper aside, Vanterpool feels like Robinson can be an impact player for the Blazers and in the league if he embraces his role.
“Thomas has to fall in love with his role and what his role in the NBA will be as far as an energy guy,” he said. “That’s special, in terms of being energetic and running the floor.”
Robinson’s growth won’t come without the pains. On Sunday he totaled 14 points and 12 rebounds but struggled at the free-throw line — a trend in his first two pro seasons — going 6-for-13 in the Blazers’ 75-67 win over the Rockets.
During the summer league, Robinson is hoping to see results from his work, but not because more is expected of him in his second season with the Blazers.
“I don’t have to prove anything to anybody,” he said. “And I don’t care about trying to prove anything to anybody. I’m getting better for myself, nobody else.”