The San Antonio Spurs are building for the future in other ways besides signing David Robinson to a multimillion dollar contract.
Rather than biding their time until Robinson gets out of the Navy in 1989, the Spurs have gotten rid of the veterans who made them a division champion in the late 1970s and early 1980s -- George Gervin, Artis Gilmore and Johnny Moore.
In their place is a group of talented young players led by what could be the best young backcourt in the NBA, Alvin Robertson and Johnny Dawkins. Robertson is in his fourth season, Dawkins his second.
"Magic Johnson and anybody else or Michael Jordan and anybody else is the best backcourt in the NBA," Coach Bob Weiss said, "but as a young twosome, there's no one playing better."
Most predicted that San Antonio would fail to make the playoffs this season, but after 10 games, the Spurs had won half their games and appear to be headed for the middle of the pack.
"We're better than a lot of people think we are," Weiss said.
San Antonio's top five scorers all have been in the NBA less than four years and figure to still be around when Robinson, the designated savior, arrives on the scene.
In the first 10 games, Robertson led the Spurs with a 19.2 scoring average, followed by second-year forward Walter Berry at 18.7, Dawkins at 18.5, rookie forward Greg Anderson at 15.4 and fourth-year center Frank Brickowski at 14.8.
The most pleasant surprise is Dawkins, who already has four games with more than 20 points and is among the league leaders in assists with nine per game. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.6 assists last season.
"Johnny's handling the break a lot better this year," said Robertson, the league leader in steals the last two seasons. "He knows what's expected of him from the point guard position and he's a great scorer."
"In their sophomore season, players seem to improve, but he's on the upside of what I thought he might do," Weiss said of Dawkins.
"I'm a lot more comfortable now that it's my second year," Dawkins said. "I know what Coach Weiss expects of me as the point guard and it's my job to go out and execute it."
Dawkins said his improvement is "a matter of confidence and knowing what to I'm supposed to be doing out there and where I'm supposed to be. That comes with a year of experience. I know it's only my second year and I don't know everything yet. I have a lot to learn, so I'm just taking it day by day."
Robertson said Moore, who was waived by the Spurs last week, helped him and Dawkins improve.
"No one gives Johnny credit for helping both of us," Robertson said. "He got waived, but he's one of the reasons we're better."
Brickowski, thought of as little more than a caretaker until Robinson's arrival, is producing more than Weiss expected.
"He's averaging 15 points and is playing well on defense," Weiss said. "I didn't think we would get that much from him offensively, but I thought he could do the job on defense and he has. At 6-10, he's not that tall for a center, but he's strong and smart."
But there's no doubt Brickowski will step aside for Robinson.
"We have a young team and it's nice knowing that David Robinson is waiting in the wings, but we're concerned with winning games today," Robertson said. "Nobody on this team is talking about what's going to happen in two years.