There was a time when Orlando Robinson was so essential to the Miami Heat that they didn’t know what they would do without the undrafted rookie center.
That time was a month ago, when even with the NBA 50-day allotment on his two-way contract dwindling, the Heat got Robinson back into action eight days after he fractured his right thumb.
Now the Heat have moved on, having offloaded ineffective backup center Dewayne Dedmon ahead of the Feb. 9 NBA trading deadline and added veteran big men Cody Zeller and Kevin Love on Feb. 20 via the buyout market.
Factor in Omer Yurtseven returning from his November ankle surgery, and it basically has come time to thank Robinson for time well served, the Heat again at capacity with their veteran presence at center.
Yet despite not being on the active roster since Feb. 15, Robinson said he has turned what some might view as a negative into a positive.
“Honestly, it’s been pretty cool,” Robinson said with a smile in the Heat locker room. “I’ve gotten to get in a lot more training now that I haven’t been playing. So I’ve just got to focus on a couple of things I need to work on for the summer.
“Once I realized the two good players we added here in Kevin Love and Cody Zeller, and I realized Omer was coming back, I just figured if I’m going to be here, I might as well start working out, start training, start lifting, doing the things I need to do to get better.”
That doesn’t mean that the playing stopped, just that it changed.
So instead of routinely entering in place of Bam Adebayo, as he had done since he was signed from the Heat’s G League affiliate to a his two-way contract, there instead have been two-on-two and three-on-three games on the Heat practice court with Duncan Robinson, Kyle Lowry, Jamal Cain and others.
“It’s been real competitive, some actually good basketball,” Robinson said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to keep competing.”
That opportunity will come with Saturday’s scheduled return to the G League for the Sioux Falls Skyforce’s final six regular-season games, plus whatever playoff games might follow.
“All these two on twos, three on threes have just made me hungry to get on the court,” Robinson, 22, said. “So when I get to Sioux Falls, I’m just hungry to get in the game.”
Jumping into a playoff race makes the opportunity even more compelling.
“I want to win with that team,” Robinson said, “and if we can make a playoff run in the G League and I can help out doing that, I’ll definitely do that.”
Robinson remains eligible to return to the Heat for four games on the active roster, plus is allowed to train and travel with the Heat throughout the postseason, although not eligible for the playoff roster.
With the Heat’s standard roster at the maximum of 15 players, there is not room at the moment to convert Robinson for playoff eligibility.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a decision ahead.
By the end of June, the Heat have to decide whether to extend Robinson a two-way qualifying offer. Such an agreement would guarantee Robinson’s G League salary for next season and give the Heat the right to match any other team’s offer of a 2023-24 two-way contract. But unless the Heat offer a standard qualifying offer, guaranteeing a full NBA salary for next season, Robinson could be signed away by another team to a standard contract.
For now, Robinson said the plan is to continue to work with the Heat though June and then receive an offer to continue with the team in summer league, where he first drew notice last year.
The feedback from coach Erik Spoelstra and assistant Chris Quinn remains positive, Robinson said.
“Spo and Quinny have all mentioned how I’ve developed,” Robinson said, “and how they look forward to continuing that development here.”