Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2003

Robinson still productive heading into retirement

June 15, 2003


— Speedy Claxton took off on a fast break and wound up in the lane surrounded by three New Jersey Nets. Over his shoulder, he detected a big guy wearing a black jersey. Thinking it was Tim Duncan, he flipped the ball back and saw it go through the hoop.

Then he noticed it wasn't Duncan who scored. It was David Robinson, still trailing plays and making the right moves in one of the final games of his career.

"I thought, 'Whoa!'" Claxton said. "I just went over to him and said, 'Way to run, big guy.'"

The basket came in the second quarter of San Antonio's 93-83 victory Friday over the New Jersey Nets in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Robinson had six points, three rebounds and three steals, including a biggie in the fourth quarter, as the Spurs moved within a victory of the title.

Saturday's flight back to San Antonio marked the final plane ride of Robinson's career. He could have as little as one game left and no more than two, and has the chance to pull off the rare feat of capping a superb career with a championship.

"Really, I can't even picture it," said Robinson, who also won it all in 1999. "But if we can play the kind of basketball we want to, maybe in the last few minutes, if we've got a lead, then maybe I'll start going over it."

Robinson hasn't just been along for the ride this series.

He's averaging 10.4 points per game, third best on the team, and is second in rebounds. He also has nine blocks, typifying the defensive presence he's provided to help keep New Jersey from loading up on easy baskets.

Despite recurring knee and back pain, Robinson is averaging 26 minutes, up nearly four from the first three rounds.

San Antonio's David Robinson talks to the media before a recent
practice. The Spurs can win the NBA Finals with a victory tonight
against the New Jersey Nets in San Antonio.

San Antonio's David Robinson talks to the media before a recent practice. The Spurs can win the NBA Finals with a victory tonight against the New Jersey Nets in San Antonio.

"Who could write this script?" he said. "This is awesome. I'm just so happy to be in this spot -- be with a team that can win a championship. We're one game away from winning everything. You couldn't script it any better."

After San Antonio won the opener, there was a chance Game 2 would be Robinson's last home game. Fans responded by bringing along signs such as "Robinson for president" and "Thanks for the memories."

Now the end really is here. It'll either be Game 6 tonight, or Game 7 Wednesday night.

Closing a series at home would be a great way to close both the first season in the SBC Center and the 14th and final season of Robinson's career. It would be just as nice for veterans Kevin Willis (19th season), Danny Ferry (13th) and Steve Smith (12th), who would be winning their first championships -- and even for Steve Kerr (15th), who already has four rings.

Robinson stands out because he already has enough accomplishments to fill his Hall of Fame plaque: No. 1 overall draft pick (1987), rookie of the year (1990, after fulfilling military obligation), rebounding champion (1991), defensive player of the year (1992), scoring champion (1994), MVP (1995), 10-time All-Star, three-time Olympian and selected among the NBA's 50 greatest players.

He added his first championship in 1999, his second season with Duncan. Now Duncan is a two-time MVP and, if the Spurs win the title, likely will be the Finals MVP for the second time. To many, though, San Antonio is still Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood.

"Dave is the ideal professional," guard Stephen Jackson said. "He deserves to go out a winner."

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