SAN ANTONIO, Tex. — They're treading water now, these San Antonio Spurs, about as menacing as a flotilla of pleasure boats on a Marina del Rey weekend.
Owner Angelo Drossos isn't about to waste a good bottle of champagne to christen the likes of the USS Brickowski , USS Gudmundsson or the USS Nimphius .
But when San Antonio's ship does come in--and batten down the hatches, Ens. David Robinson is full speed ahead--the Spurs may hit the rest of the National Basketball Assn. with the force of a tidal wave.
Tuesday night in the Hemisfair Arena, the Spurs took a 133-124 soaking from the Lakers, who got 32 points from James Worthy, 23 points and 9 rebounds from A. C. Green, and 21 points and 13 assists from Magic Johnson to run their record to 3-0.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing for the Lakers, despite a 75-point first half and a 19-point, third-quarter lead, 79-60, 32 seconds into the second half.
Robinson, the 7-foot 1-inch center and No. 1 draft choice who signed last Friday, may be the aircraft carrier-in-waiting, but the Spurs gave notice they have the makings of an armada, rallying to within two points, 96-94, behind 23-year-old Walter Berry, 24-year-old Johnny Dawkins, 25-year-old Alvin Robertson, and 23-year-old Greg Anderson.
"Two years from now, we'll see," said Laker Coach Pat Riley, whose more immediate concerns were answered when Magic Johnson bailed out the Lakers with an 11-point, 4-assist fourth quarter.
"If they can get a kid like (Kansas') Danny Manning in the draft, they'll have their personnel set up," Riley said. "They're developing a nice little nucleus."
Anderson, the Spurs' other No. 1 draft choice this spring--the one they got from the Lakers in the Mychal Thompson trade last February--doesn't go for the nautical motif. He arrived from the University of Houston, where he used to play behind Akeem Olajuwon--with the nickname Cadillac.
"I used to ride my bike to class and the guys started calling me Cadillac," Anderson said. "I like it. I hopes it gets me a free Cadillac."
Not to worry--Anderson already has wheels, having just bought a BMW. And Tuesday night, the 6-10 forward was operating on cruise control: He scored 19 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and blocked 5 shots in just 22 minutes.
"Today, he played more like a Porsche," Thompson said. "Great acceleration, and when he was up in the air, he shot well."
Don't rookies come into this league with respect anymore? Last Friday, it was Seattle rookie Derrick McKey, who lit up the Lakers for 18 points. Now Anderson.
Worthy, who had two of his shots rejected by the rambunctious rookie, shook his head.
"Seven or eight years ago, a guy used to come in with awe--When I came in, I wasn't intimidated, but I was a little bit in awe--but now these guys take the opportunity right away to show what they can do," Worthy said.
This was also the first chance for ex-Lakers Frank Brickowski and Petur Gudmundsson--the other parties in the Thompson deal--to show something, too.
"They wanted to show that the deal wasn't as one-sided as the Louisiana Purchase," Thompson said.
Neither one will ever be mistaken for history-in-the-making, but both Brickowski and Gudmundsson had their moments against their one-time practice partner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Brickowski had 13 points and though he only had two rebounds, he made four steals, stepping in front of Abdul-Jabbar to steal passes on two straight plays midway into the fourth quarter, when the Spurs closed to within 117-113.
Gudmundsson had six points and four rebounds while matching Brickowski foul for foul--five apiece. Former Clipper Kurt Nimphius, the third Spur center, had 4 points, 3 rebounds and 4 fouls in 10 minutes.
"We knew Brickowski was coming to play," Laker guard Michael Cooper said. "He was out to prove something. You could see it in his eyes."
At one point, after Cooper had drawn a charging foul from Spur guard Robertson, he was startled by a sharp slap on the derriere from Brickowski.
"My wife's going to have to tell him about that when he comes to L.A.," Cooper said.
Any chance the Spurs would be talking about their comeback when they come to L.A. on Sunday was dashed by Johnson, who has been more mortal than magic since coming back from Achilles' tendinitis.
Normally, Magic Johnson doesn't throw passes that carom off the backboard or fly out of bounds, like those thrown by No. 32 in a Laker uniform Tuesday.
"That's from not playing," he said. "I'm just making a lot of bad decisions."
The bottom line, however, read just as it usually does: With the score 115-111, Magic rebounded his own miss, then fed Abdul-Jabbar--who scored 18 points--for a lay-in. Abdul-Jabbar crossed the lane and threw in another shot, then Johnson went right-to-left, sent up an underhanded scoop, and was fouled, converting the free throw.