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Glenn Robinson III takes a big step up with Pistons

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Glenn Robinson missed 59 regular-season games last season for the Pacers because of ligament tears in an ankle.

Las Vegas — The NBA has been a learning process for Glenn Robinson III.

Entering his fifth season in the league, Robinson’s education didn’t just start when he left Michigan after his sophomore season and was drafted in the second round by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Robinson had seen much more through his namesake father, Glenn Jr., who had an 11-year career, with two All-Star appearances. Nothing prepared Glenn III for what he experienced last season, after he suffered an ankle injury in the final day of training camp with the Indiana Pacers.

“It was a freak accident so I never expected it. When it happened, (the Pacers) didn’t know what happened,” Robinson III said Saturday. “Luckily, I only tore two ligaments in my ankle. I spent 56 games getting it right and making sure I was completely healthy before I stepped back out. I had two seasons where people hadn’t seen me.”

Robinson is looking for a renaissance to his career after signing a two-year deal with the Pistons, worth a reported $8.3 million. The 6-foot-7 small forward will provide depth at small forward, but could compete with Stanley Johnson for the starting spot when training camp begins in the fall.

It’s been a rough road to return to health for Robinson, who played in only 23 games last season and didn’t return to the lineup until Feb. 23.

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He had grueling rehab on the foot and had to start from the basics to get back on his feet, getting some inspiration from Kobe Bryant, who had a long rehab in returning from his Achilles injury.

“I had to teach myself to walk again and run and take it step by step and day by day,” Robinson said. “I read that Kobe article where he talked about his injuries. I read that every single day to stay focused. It taught me how to work hard.”

The work begins for Robinson, 24, who says he’s back to 100 percent and ready to contribute to the Pistons’ push. He sat courtside at Cox Pavilion with Andre Drummond and Jose Calderon during the Pistons’ game on Saturday night and reflected on his outlook as the Pistons’ biggest acquisition in free agency.

He was a role player with the Timberwolves and Pacers, but Robinson looks to have a bigger role in store with new coach Dwane Casey and the Pistons. After he won the Slam-Dunk Contest in 2017, Robinson seemed to have a budding future ahead of him, but now he’s just looking to get back to that level of athleticism.

“I’m good to go. No setbacks. I feel great and teams have seen me coming back from that injury,” Robinson said. “I missed (59) games and it was disappointing but it was the first injury of my career. The biggest thing was that it was a freak accident — I fell crazy the last day of training camp.

“I’m 100 percent and I want to do the dunk contest again. That’s one of the first things I thought about when I got injured. I want to bring that back to Detroit.”

Glenn Robinson gives the Pistons a wing that can shoot well from the outside.


The first time

As the opening of free agency approached last week, Robinson wasn’t sure what would happen. After the injury, he had a solid finish to the season, but teams can get skittish about injury concerns.

His worries went away quickly, as teams reached out quickly, with a tight free-agent market, especially for second-tier options.

“It was crazy. It was my first free agency and I’ve never experienced anything like that. It was crazy with all the coaches and organizations reaching out,” he said. “It was a fun time and a really good experience. I’m glad to be here in Detroit and happy how things worked out.”

The Pistons reached out to Robinson quickly, looking to make an aggressive pitch, with Casey making first contact. They didn’t have much cap space, but wanted to open the discussions and make their intentions known.

“Coach was the first to give me a call, at 12:01. I talked to coach Casey immediately and he told me what my role would be,” Robinson said. “Coming in as a shooter and defender who could spread the floor and attack the basket. They were looking for shooters at small forward to be able to stretch the floor and help Blake (Griffin) and Drummond inside.

“We have a great team and we can get this playoff push going and we’re coming in with strong confidence and chips on our shoulders.”

Although the Pistons were over the salary cap and operating on a shoestring budget, they made an aggressive offer to Robinson to try to fill their biggest need: depth on the wing.

The second year of the reported deal is a team option, but it provides flexibility for both Robinson and the Pistons, to see if he’s healthy — and as insurance in case they can’t keep Stanley Johnson, who will be a restricted free agent next summer.

“We feel getting a two-year commitment was huge for us, to find a young wing who can make a shot — they’re hard to find in this league — and when that opportunity came up that quickly, we felt we had to make a move,” said senior adviser Ed Stefanski, who has assumed the role of general manager. “Our scouts watched him and they were high on him. If there’s a young guy who can make a shot at the wing spot, you’ve got to take a shot at him.

“It’s been proven that if you’re just patient, there are a lot of guys still out there. In our situation, we just had the right moment to get him; if it wasn’t him, we would have been still out there looking for a guy.”

Robinson is ready to step into a bigger role, after playing in the shadows of two outstanding players with the Pacers. Now, he can come into his own.

“Part of my decision coming here was playing behind Paul (George) for two years and going against Vic Oladipo every day was a great opportunity to step up and try to get those minutes that I’m ready for. I won’t disappoint,” he said.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard