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The NBA : Robinson's Choice Welcomed by League

November 10, 1987|Gordon Edes

David Robinson dropping anchor in San Antonio? Good for the league, good for the Spurs, and good for Robinson, according to a sampling of National Basketball Assn. team executives. And if it's tough luck for the Lakers or Celtics, too bad.

"It's one for the little guy," said Joe Axelson, president of the Sacramento Kings. "But it's also one for the guy with room under the (salary) cap. That may have saved the San Antonio franchise"

Axelson was one of those who believed the chance to play for the Lakers would be tempting to Robinson, who stood to become a free agent after he served his two-year stint in the Navy.

"I'm certainly not against the Lakers being strong, but the draft was designed to improve the poorer clubs," he said.

Jan Volk, the general manager of the Boston Celtics, said he was surprised that the Spurs signed Robinson so quickly.

"I can't say what the focus of the discussion was, but I'm sure security was a part of it," Volk said. "He doesn't have to be concerned about his future now, that he might not be able to play for one reason or another."

Robinson signed last Friday for a contract estimated to be in the $24-million to $30-million range.

The San Antonio Light reported Monday that Robinson will receive $3 million from the Spurs while he performs his required two-year assignment in the Navy.

The Light, quoting an unnamed NBA official, said the 7-foot 1-inch center will earn $2 million this season--a $1-million signing bonus and $1 million in salary. Robinson also will make $1 million next season while fulfilling his final year of duty at Kings Bay Naval Base in St. Mary's, Ga.

The money will be placed in a trust fund to be administered by the U.S. Amateur Basketball Assn. so that Robinson will be eligible to participate in the Olympics.

On the signing, Stan Kasten, president and general manager of the Atlanta Hawks, said: "I'm surprised and delighted and thrilled for the league that he ends up with the team that drafted him,"

"I didn't assume (he'd end up with the Lakers or Celtics), but that's the scenario all the writers were talking about. I don't think that was good."

Said Bucky Buckwalter, general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers: "I think everybody in the league was pleased to see it happen. . . . I'm sure other teams thought they'd have a shot at him, but justice prevailed."

Add Robinson: Mychal Thompson played for the Spurs before coming to the Lakers last February. His opinion?

"It's good for San Antonio and good for the league," he said. "They have nice people there, but the franchise needs to be rejuvenated. He's the one to do it. They'll come out and support a team with David Robinson on it.

" . . . I think he wanted the challenge of starting with a franchise and building it up. There's a lot more satisfaction doing that than starting with a franchise with the aura of the Lakers or Celtics, to be able to say 'I turned the franchise around.'

"That means a lot--along with those $3-million checks."

The legend continues: They're already rating Larry Bird's performance in the Celtics' 140-139, double-overtime win over the Washington Bullets last Saturday night as one of his best. Bird scored 47 points, including a running three-pointer to tie the score in regulation, then a turnaround 20-footer to win it.

With 24 seconds left in regulation, Bird sank another three-pointer, but it didn't count because Coach K. C. Jones had called time out. Jones also tried to call time out before Bird's game-winner.

"I'm glad he didn't hear me," Jones said. "It shows you what I know."

Add Bird: Said Bullet guard Darrell Walker about Bird's game-tying shot: "He shoots it off one foot? Get the heck outta here. Nothing but net. What can you do? What can you do?"

New York nix: New coach Rick Pitino, after watching the Knicks get beat in each of their first three games:

"No matter how much we hustle, no matter how much we dive and scratch, unless we learn the fundamentals of offensive basketball, we're never going to win."

Is Denver still in the league? Just ask the Clippers, although you would never have known it from the Times' preview package last week. The Nuggets were inadvertently left out of the Midwest Division rundown.

So how good are the Nuggets, who were bombed in three straight games by the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs last season? Well, forward Calvin Natt is back after missing all of last season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon, but leading scorer Alex English will be 34 in January.

Said Coach Doug Moe: "We'll try to do the same things we did (in 1984-85, when the Nuggets won the division title). We've changed a little bit personnel-wise. Alex is a little older. Calvin is a little more injured. Coop (Wayne Cooper) is older. Fat (Lever) is more controlled. So, we may run a little slower. But we'll run."

The Nuggets added Jay Vincent and Michael Adams in a trade with Washington just before the season started.

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