Robinson may have grown accustomed to such remarks, but that doesn't mean he likes them. "I think this whole passion thing is so overstated," he says. "It's just like in a marriage. Sure, passion is nice, but it's just as important to have commitment and faithfulness. All that jumping up and down stuff, it's not me. I'm not a rah-rah kind of guy. I figure what I've done in the league speaks for itself.
"It's not like Mario and I have had time to get to know each other intimately. But I don't really care what he says, as long as he wants to win."
Elie was recently plugged into the starting lineup to replace struggling shooting guard Jaren Jackson. Robinson, too, has started slowly, leading to speculation he might be injured. ("I'm not," he says. "My knee was a little sore. That's it.") The synergy he and Tim Duncan generated on the front line through the second half of last season has not manifested itself in 1999. At week's end Robinson's averages had declined to 15.7 points and 9.8 rebounds a game (from 21.6 and 10.6), Duncan's scoring was down to 18.7 points (from 21.1), and the Spurs were 6-8.
Robinson has uncharacteristically found himself in foul trouble, a signal his conditioning may be off. Meanwhile, the days of Duncan's seeing single coverage are over, and he has reacted poorly to the onslaught of defenders who trap and jostle him. "In some respects Tim is back to square one," says coach Gregg Popovich. "We've almost had to start over in terms of kicking the ball out of double teams and creating the proper spacing."
While San Antonio works out the kinks in an entirely new outside game (which includes small forward Sean Elliott, who missed most of last season with injuries), Robinson absorbs the blame for the team's slow start. That, too, has become a recurring theme. "People don't seem to realize that David has taken over defensive, rebounding and shot-blocking responsibilities," Popovich says. "They only look at his points, but some of his offensive load will shift to Tim as the years go by."
If Duncan has been frustrated by teams' redoubled efforts to stop him, it would be hard to detect his response on the passion meter. Someday, someone will make that an issue. For now, it's the Admiral's cross to bear.
A Fine Line
Filling the Void
Nuggets forward Antonio McDyess, Feb. 28 versus Vancouver: 41 minutes, 16-25 field goals, 14-18 free throws, 46 points, 19 rebounds, 4 blocks. Promising to do more in the wake of the season-ending knee injury to promising rookie big man Raef LaFrentz, McDyess had a career high in points, and matched the NBA high this season. More significant, he led Denver to a 116-112 victory.
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