KU's Robinson, Taylor ready for any challenge
JUN 29, 2012 2:41a ET
Sure enough, Thomas Robinson slid below pretty much every credible projection. A few hours later, so did Tyshawn Taylor. New league, same old story.
"I know what drives them both," Kansas coach Bill Self observed late Thursday night, just before the NBA put a bow on its 2012 draft. "It drives them nuts to think that somebody thinks that somebody's better than them."
T-Rob, the 6-foot-8 mountain of a forward, was supposed to go to Charlotte at No. 2. He wound up in Sacramento — for now, at least, you're never sure where the Kings will be from year to year — at No. 5. Twitter had decreed that Taylor, the 6-3 point guard, was a lock to Chicago at No. 29. He wound up in Portland at No. 41, then got shipped off to the New-Jersey-turned- Brooklyn Nets.
"I was sitting on a step (inside) this restaurant, shaking my head at the pick before me," Taylor said when asked to recall how he spent the evening in his hometown of Hoboken, N.J. "And was a little bit upset."
OK, here's your first scouting report on Robinson and Taylor, NBA coaches: You don't want them feeling upset.
You don't want them with a chip on their shoulder, convinced that they have to go out and prove something. Because you know what? They will.
"These guys have gone through some crap," Self said of the pair, which helped power the rebuilding Jayhawks to a surprising eighth straight Big 12 title and an even more surprising berth in the Final Four. "There's a certain bit of conditional respect, for lack of a better word, or maybe happiness, when you see kids that have persevered."
Robinson persevered. He persevered through the passing of his mom, Lisa, the woman who raised him and baby sister Jayla. Through a three-week span in the winter of 2011, there was a fell swoop of cruel when the Washington, D.C., native lost his grandmother, his grandfather and his mother.
"I made it," the big man told reporters during a post-draft news conference in Newark, N.J.
When approached off stage by ESPN's Mark Jones, Robinson — the first top 10 pick of the Self Era — fought back tears. You would, too, if you'd been forced to grow up more in 24 months than some of your peers do in a lifetime.
"All the things he's been through, and to see that he is going to be able to provide for his family in ways we could only dream of, even going into (this past) season," Self said. "I was so happy for him, happy for Jayla."
It's a heart-warming narrative, the kind Sacramento hasn't seen much of lately. Franchises picking in the top five are traditionally flawed, but the Kings are a toxic mess, even by NBA Lottery standards. The club's owners want to get the heck out of town. The town's fans want to keep the team and punt the owners. Center DeMarcus Cousins is one of pro basketball's biggest headaches, a petulant man-child who's brawled with teammates in the locker room and allegedly powered the coup that led to former coach Paul Westphal getting the boot. You'd call it ‘dysfunctional,' but that would be too kind.
Robinson, as a rule, is all business, especially when he sets his mind to something. The challenge is for T-Rob to change the culture, and not the other way around.
"No matter how old I am, rookie or not, I'm not letting (anybody) relax," Robinson told reporters. "It's not cool to lose, so I'm going (to) try to bring my attitude in."
Taylor persevered. Persevered through a childhood where, at the age of 8, he found himself living in a battered women's shelter in Tampa, Fla. Through a collegiate tenure marked by fights, suspensions, and questionable decision-making, on and off the court.
"Tyshawn goes from being the most criticized guy that I've coached — period — to now, ‘How in the world can we play without him?'" Self reflected. "And every fan feels the same way,"
As a defender, Taylor is a physical, tenacious pest. As a passer, he's the kind of floor general that can make coaches want to pull out their hair, strand by strand. You take the good with the bad.
But he's never backed down from a challenge, either. As for all the warts and brain cramps and angry Tweets, well, that's part of the Tyshawn charm, isn't it?
When a reporter asked the former Jayhawk whom he was most looking forward to guarding at the next level, this was the reply:
"I want to play against ( Celtics guard Rajon) Rondo."
The same Rondo who averaged 17.3 points, 11.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds in the playoffs this past spring? The guy who dropped 44 on the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals? Really?
"I love his game," Taylor continued. "I think he's the best point guard in the league. I'm competitive and I want to compete against the best, man."
And now, finally, he will. You just hope the best are ready.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com
+ SHOW COMMENTS +