Robinson Returns to Sioux Falls and Ready to Help Skyforce Make Playoff Push
Molly McIntyre /March 13, 2023
Miami HEAT two-way player Orlando Robinson made his return to Sioux Falls for the first time since December 10, 2022 this past Sunday. He looks to help light a fire in the Skyforce as they look to earn the organization’s first playoff bid since the 2016 NBA G League championship team.
As of March 13, the Force hold the sixth-and-final spot in the Western Conference with only five games to go.
Robinson got back on the court with the Force this past Sunday afternoon against the Austin Spurs and picked up right where he left off, which was seven-straight double doubles (a G League franchise record), and a 26-point, 21-rebound performance on Dec. 10th, which helped secure a two-way spot with the HEAT .
In 30 minutes of work, he scored 24 points on 10-16 FGA, and added seven rebounds and a career-high seven assists.
For many, that is a solid performance, or even a career night, but it was not good enough for Robinson.
“I’ll get better,” Robinson said with a shrug after hearing his stat line. “I’ve got to get my legs under me and I’ll get better.”
During the Showcase Cup portion of the season, Robinson was one of the most dominant bigs in the NBA G League. In his 32.3 minutes a game, Robinson was a walking double-double and averaged 22.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.
“It’s very important (for us) to get him this late in the season,” Head Coach Kasib Powell said. “He’s an NBA talent. I think he’s one of the best bigs in the G League, if not the best big in the league. We are looking to make a push and he will be very helpful.”
Robinson has spent the past three months in Miami on a two-way contract with the HEAT. It was a jam packed winter for Robinson, trying to absorb as much as he could knowing that at any time he could be back in Sioux Falls.
“Miami was nice,” Robinson said. “I learned a lot and saw how the game was played. I figured out the speed, how coaching is done, the intensity and competitiveness it takes. I’ve been taking everything in and learning as much as I can by watching Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, and Tyler Herro. I feel like I’ve picked up a good feel for the game.”
The 22 year old Las Vegas, Nevada native was a little conflicted on how to act with this life changing experience at first. On one hand, he is a professional and it is all business. On the other hand, this is a dream come true and everything he has worked for and accomplished has led him to this moment - the kid inside him was going crazy.
“When I first got there, I didn’t really understand I was in the NBA,” Robinson said. “I was thinking ‘I really have to take advantage of this opportunity.’ But then, the kid inside of me kept yelling at me like, ‘Dude. You’re in the league right now. You’re about to play against LeBron. Don’t be a fangirl, but this is it man. We made it.’ There were games when I was absolutely locked in doing what I had to do, but my love for hooping always ended up coming out because I took a minute to say, ‘Hold on, this is my job but I am playing at the very best level’. I found a lot of peace in embracing both sides.”
The life of a two-way player is extremely sporadic. It is full of flights to and from one team to another. One night you are with the HEAT on Biscayne Boulevard, and the next you are in Sioux Falls in the snow ready to play with the Skyforce.
But Robinson’s situation was unique in that he was able to stay stationed in Miami for three straight months. This was something that really helped him adjust and get more comfortable.
“Staying in one place is very important to me,” Robinson said. “I get comfortable that way. I feel comfortable with the situation and get close with the people around me. I’m glad it happened that way. When I was in Miami, I got comfortable and was able to bond with people. When I’m here for long periods of time, I feel good and comfortable. If I kept going back and forth, that might have screwed with me a little. That’s the type of person I am.”
Robinson was able to be himself and get comfortable in Miami, but there was a big learning curve for him. When he was in Sioux Falls, he was a focal point. Going to Miami, Robinson had to adjust to learning a new role and making the most of the minutes available to him.
“If you want to last long in the league, you have to understand that you won’t always be the guy,” Robinson said. “You have to work your way up by knowing your role and building trust. Competing at a high level and playing hard will give you more rope and then you can showcase what you can do and keep building from there. You’ve got to earn that freedom.”
Robinson put the work in and kept building trust day by day. All of that work and trust led to his first career start on January 10 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I think I almost fouled out of that game,” Robinson said with a laugh. “It was a good night. Just to be in that arena and hear my name being called. The atmosphere and the experience was amazing.”
Robinson spent almost all of his time in Miami taking everything in and learning as much as he can. One guy he wanted to learn a lot from was Adebayo, and the NBA All-Star helped him hone in on the defensive end
“He can guard one through five like nobody else in the league and that’s something I want to do with him,” Robinson said. “I want to be able to be on the floor with him and create space. That’s something I’ve really been working on. Maybe next year, potentially me and him can play together and make a run.”
Robinson developed a good relationship with Adebayo by learning from him and keeping a close eye on him. Another relationship he has valued is NBA champion and HEAT point guard Kyle Lowry.
“Kyle and I have really been bonding,” Robinson said. “He’s been coaching me up. We’ve been playing three-on-three when he hasn’t been playing and we get to compete together. When he saw that I really want this and it gave him a sense of who I was. We kept building this bond and it made us close.”
Robinson has come back to Sioux Falls after a long and successful stint in Miami and knows the next objective: to get the Force in the postseason. Getting Sioux Falls back in the playoffs completes two objectives for Robinson.
First, it allows him to get back on the court and get his legs back under him. It gives him another chance to be a focal point and build himself up and develop even more.
“Even when I wasn’t playing in Miami, I kept training because I knew either way I was going to play,” Robinson said. “I would either play there or I would come back and play here. Either way, I just had to keep doing what I was supposed to do. I’m going to keep my head down and push myself to the absolute limit.”
Second, and most importantly, it gives Robinson a chance to compete with his guys. He wants to be who Powell and the Skyforce relies on and winning is the most important thing for him. It is the only thing.
“Getting to the playoffs is very important for me,” Robinson said. “Once I found out the situation we were in, winning became my main priority. If I’m here for the last five games, we are winning all five of those games. That is my main focus. Nothing else. My job is to put my team in a position to play in and be successful in the playoffs.”
Part of that playoff push brings Robinson back home for back-to-back games against the G League Ignite. He gets to play back home in front of family and friends for the first time as a member of the Skyforce.
“I’m very excited,” Robinson said. “I hope I can get a lot of tickets because my whole family is out there. I don’t need the tickets or attention anywhere else, but when I’m in Vegas, I have to get tickets for everybody.”
Sioux Falls has five games left and controls their own destiny. Robinson gives the team really good production on the court to give the team a boost, but his off the court presence will also pay dividends for the Force.
Catch Robinson and Sioux Falls for the remainder of the playoff push on Wednesday and Thursday against Scoot Henderson and G League Ignite, with tip-off slated at 9:00 PM CST on ESPN+.