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Dumping Nate Robinson would be a savings Bulls can’t afford

Nate Robinslights fire under Bulls emotionally is their only point guard whose health isn’t suspect this season. | Brian Kersey~AP

Nate Robinson lights a fire under the Bulls emotionally and is their only point guard whose health isn’t suspect this season. | Brian Kersey~AP

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Updated: January 24, 2013 6:27AM



Jan. 10 is an important date for the Bulls. The organization can either keep guard Nate Robinson on the roster, making his one-year deal guaranteed for the rest of the season, or it can toss him overboard and make one of the bigger mistakes of the season.

There definitely has been a buzz around the Berto Center in the last week, with Derrick Rose starting to take part in the non-contact drills of practice. Rose’s eventual return will give the Bulls four point guards and still keep them just over that luxury-tax line, where the punishment no longer fits the crime, thanks to the latest collective bargaining agreement.

But the Bulls need Robinson a lot more than they might be willing to admit.

He is the ultimate insurance policy, the pit bull in a room full of china dolls as far as the backcourt is concerned. His $1.2  million contract pays for reliability, something no other point guard on the roster can give the Bulls now.

Rose could have setbacks when he returns, or he might simply need games off, especially back-to-back games early on. Kirk Hinrich is the Bulls’ version of a bubble boy, running out of body parts to injure this season. Rookie Marquis Teague is, well, still a rookie. Rip Hamilton can’t stay healthy, leaving Marco Belinelli to absorb a lot of the minutes at the two-guard spot.

No, if a move is required to trim salary, the Bulls would be better off moving Hamilton — an idea the front office has been entertaining, and one that’s more reality than rumor.

Finally, with Robinson, there’s the energy he brings. The Bulls have some emotional players on their roster, and Robinson seems to be the fuel behind that emotion.

A big decision is coming, and fans can hope the Bulls make the smart one by keeping Robinson.

† Can’t wait to see Amar’e Stoudemire get back to playing . . . and ruining the New York Knicks.

† Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams is slowly adding ‘‘coach killer’’ to his résumé.

† The All-Underachieving Teams so far this season: 1. Los Angeles Lakers. 2. Indiana Pacers. 3. Philadelphia 76ers.

Player of the week

Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves power forward. The All-Star is starting to play his way back into shape after fighting through an early-season injury, and that was evident Thursday when he helped end the Oklahoma City’s Thunder’s 12-game winning streak by scoring 28 points and snatching 11 rebounds. Seven assists didn’t hurt, either.

Team of the week

Los Angeles Clippers. ‘‘Lob City’’ is finally playing up to its talent level and entered the weekend with 11 straight wins. Plus, Blake Griffin’s Kia time-travel commercials are just too good to ignore.

The big five

1. Miami Heat, 2. Thunder. 3. Knicks. 4. Clippers. 5. Memphis Grizzlies.

Big number

37Carmelo Anthony’s scoring average against the crosstown-rival Nets this season. The Knicks have won two of the three meetings; Anthony is letting the Big Apple know whose city it is.

Key games

Knicks at Lakers, 2 p.m. Tuesday. The beasts from the East go to La-La Land and take on the dysfunction that is the drama-filled Lakers. Merry Christmas.

Thunder at Heat, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. A rematch of the NBA Finals from last season. LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Clippers at Utah Jazz, 8  p.m. Friday. The Jazz has been inconsistent overall but very good at home. The Clippers have to prove that above-the-rim travels well.



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