DALLAS There was a slight admission of vulnerability, but Thomas Robinson caught himself.
"I'm not the best finisher right now," he said. "Well, I won't say that. I'm not finishing the way I can right now."
It's all part of Robinson's development process.
The Kings remain patient with their rookie as he continues to adapt to the NBA. So even as he struggles with the easiest of shots, the Kings believe they drafted a player who will be a cornerstone of their rebuilding effort.
Coach Keith Smart said the Kings knew from studying Robinson before the draft that he would struggle finishing around the rim.
But Smart said there were enough positives to warrant selecting the Kansas product, and Smart believed that Robinson's efficiency around the rim would improve through work with assistant coach Clifford Ray.
"You saw the energy, you saw the effort," Smart said. "You saw the defense, coming over to block a shot. You saw the shooting, the ability to make a 15- to 17-foot jump shot. You saw him be able to get out defensively.
"So the thing you want to focus on is finishing around the basket."
According to NBA.com/stats, Robinson has made 22 of 43 shots (51.2 percent) within five feet of the rim. He is shooting 44.3 percent (31 of 70) overall.
"I'm thinking too much," Robinson said. "That's all it is. It's a mental thing. I've been through this thing before when I was in college."
How did Robinson get out of his shooting rut at Kansas? "Worked my way out of it," he said.
Working his way out of struggles as a pro has meant time after practice learning the finer points of interior scoring from Ray.
"He works hard trying to do the little things," Ray said. "I think a lot of times, young people when they have success in life, they forget you can always learn something. And he's a good student, and he works hard. He's going to stay the course. Sometimes you're not going to make your shots, but you keep working."
The Kings rated Robinson their No. 2 prospect in the 2012 draft and were elated he was available when they selected at No. 5. But the Kings never planned to rush Robinson into a starring role.
Similar to how Robinson went from backup to unanimous All-American by his junior year, the Kings are content to allow him to progress steadily.
"I have to remember that just like in college I wasn't great right away," Robinson said. "I had to work my way to that point. It's a different level now. In the back of my mind, I still knew that coming in here that I'd have to work my way into becoming a top guy. I'm not just going to come out here and take over."
Robinson has shown the hustle and defensive traits Smart predicted. The signature game of his season might have been Friday's win over Orlando. Robinson scored only one point but grabbed seven rebounds and had three assists.
Even though Robinson missed all five of his shots, Smart left him on the floor to close the game because of his defense and intangibles.
"That meant more than scoring," Robinson said of playing key minutes late. "I could have scored 30 and played 20 minutes, but me finishing the game felt just as good out there."
That's the attitude the Kings want from Robinson until those shots start falling.