LAS VEGAS It wasn't official, but it was official enough. After four days of practice in Sacramento, Thomas Robinson made his first NBA road trip, played his first NBA game, missed his first field goal (a 19-footer), converted his first layup, suffered his first defeat.
And, yes, he hates losing.
"I played horrible," a dejected Robinson said after the Kings were routed by the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night in the Cox Pavilion. "I wanted to do so good today, and I did the complete opposite. I wasn't nervous at all. I just wanted to do so good. It just didn't happen."
With the summer league resuming after a one-year hiatus because of the NBA lockout, the much anticipated Kings-Bobcats matchup featured two of the league's top draft prospects: Charlotte small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was a surprise No.2 selection, and Robinson, the Kansas power forward who was gratefully plucked by the Kings at No. 5.
The Kings' offseason plan was to retain restricted free agent Jason Thompson (done) and address perimeter shooting, point-guard issues and lack of frontcourt length via free agency, trades or the NBA draft.
And while weaknesses persist at point guard and perimeter shooting and Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie is still engaged in trade talks the addition of the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Robinson immediately upgrades the frontcourt.
Though Kidd-Gilchrist enjoyed the better all-around performance, electrifying both the crowd and his team with a reasonable Scottie Pippen imitation, Robinson was energetic and involved, and receiving little help from his teammates, clearly tried to do too much.
But he was much too hard on himself. He hit midrange jumpers and deep balls from the corner. He showed a quick first step, a variety of offensive moves, and provided a safety valve when Jimmer Fredette labored against fullcourt pressure. And he showed off better-than-advertised passing skills.
"He brings energy and toughness," said Bobby Jackson, who is coaching the Kings squad, "and he plays hard all the time. All the time. But his passing has probably impressed me more than anything. He can take the ball off the rim and dribble the length of the court like a point guard."
Robinson's summer league debut lured several of the Maloofs and a few of his new teammates to the Cox Pavilion.
Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton sat at the end of the Kings' bench, with DeMarcus Cousins and his 6-foot-11, 290-body squeezed in the middle. The Kings' third-year center, who remained in town after completing his impressive weeklong training camp with the Men's USA Select Team, recalled his own struggles during his summer league debut two offseasons ago.
"It's always a little tough when you first get out there," Cousins said, "but you can see that he (Robinson) can do a lot of things. I'd like to see him use his body a little bit more. He's big and strong, and I think he was settling too much for the jumper."
And dribbling into crowds. And failing to finish after a terrific drop step. And whipping a pass that smacked referee Justin VanDuyne on the side of the head for one of his eight turnovers.
"We didn't get back in transition," said Robinson, continuing his harsh self-critique. "The press beat us. We didn't rebound. I didn't rebound. I played horrible tonight. I'll take this one."
But, as they say, welcome to the league. The NBA season is a grind, and the offseason can be an adventure: Robinson's inaugural road trip was delayed almost four hours Thursday when a windstorm swept through the desert valley, bringing winds and rain.
Scheduled to leave Sacramento at 7 p.m., the Kings finally arrived at the hotel around midnight. Then there was a quick turnaround for Friday's 10 a.m. practice, followed by a return to the hotel for lunch and a nap, then another bus ride to the arena.
"He's going to come along and be a good player," Kings coach Keith Smart said of Robinson late Friday, with a knowing smile. "There are things he can get better at it. But you really love the competitive spirit, the way he plays, the passion he has. And he tries to play within the league. He's going to do a good job for our team."