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Robertson, for his part, never popped off about replacing Gervin, but neither did he doubt that he could. "I can't be like Ice and I'm not trying to be," he says. "When I met him he was like a god. He did things so smooth, so calm. He's still the main man around here. Nothing will change that. But, honestly, I felt I outplayed him every time in the preseason. Every time. That's just the way it was."
Smooth and calm are not the adjectives to describe Robertson's game. His shoot-it-on-the-way-up jumper is as ugly as they come and he can't begin to match Gervin's ability to score from outside or slither around picks. "The only way you can play him is to lay off him," says the Suns' Davis. "Make him shoot it outside and he's in trouble. That's the only weakness in his game." Still, Robertson shot .514 from the floor. "So he's not a great shooter?" says Utah's Frank Layden. "He's got poise and a feel for the game. They're much more important."
Offensively, Robertson is most dangerous on the open floor. When he comes down with a defensive rebound, his instructions are to take it and go, even if the point guard (who in Moore's absence has been Wes Matthews or Jon Sundvold) is open. In a spread offense against pressure, Robertson stations himself at the top of the circle so he can receive the pass, turn and drive the lane, looking to dish off or draw a foul. (That was Gervin's spot, too, only his job was to find a way to shoot, which he usually did.) Robertson's drives to the hoop are most evocative of—don't laugh—Erving, because he cups the ball and holds it high above his head on dunks.
Defense is his specialty, though. "That's where he's in a class by himself," says Golden State guard Geoff Huston. Not really. Not yet. There are still better man-to-man defenders, like Cooper and perhaps Milwaukee's one-two punch of Moncrief and long-armed Paul Pressey. Dennis Johnson and Denver's T.R. Dunn might be better at checking stronger players, and Cheeks can pick more pockets.
But Robertson does a little bit of everything, and he is still a few years away from his physical peak. Right now, he is the best free-lance defender in the league, as all those steals attest. His quickness enables him to double down on big men and his strength enables him to slap balls away from them. "Sometimes I do some real karate chopping out there and get away with it," says Robertson, whose naivet� is charming in a league in which no one ever admits to committing a foul. He also has a knack for turning around at precisely the right moment and stealing the lazy inbounds pass for an easy basket. The TV production crew that films the Spurs' games has missed so many of those plays that it has been instructed not to swing the camera automatically upcourt after a San Antonio basket.
Robertson is a different kind of thief than Buse, who was a master at stealing the ball off an opponent's change-of-direction dribble. "Alvin's more of a foot-quickness defender than a hand-quickness defender like I was," says Buse. "I still think he gambles a little too much, though, and next year he'll discover that players will be more careful with the ball around him. Right now I consider Michael Cooper the best all-around defender in the league. But Alvin could be that good, no doubt in my mind."
No doubt in Fitzsimmons's mind, either. "If Alvin hadn't come through like he has this season," says Fitzsimmons, "I would've needed the Alamo to protect me." And we all know how well the Alamo held up under siege.
Robertson approaches his radio show with the same energy that he puts into defense. Says "Real" Mike Kelly, the KAPE disc jockey and program director who got him on the air: "If he ever took this up full-time, I'd be worried about a job."
Alvin first heard what he calls "the sounds" on a campus radio program during his sophomore year at Arkansas. At the 1984 Olympic trials he found a true "bredren" when Jamaica-born Patrick Ewing sidled up to him and said, "Wopnin', mon?" "Fillin' irie, mon," answered Robertson. After both made the U.S. team, he listened to Ewing's reggae tapes. Robertson augmented his knowledge of the Jamaican language and culture last summer at Sun Splash, a reggae festival in Montego Bay.
He insists that he does not abide by Rastafarian philosophy and the heavy marijuana smoking associated with it. "It's just the music," he says. He has no plans to trade in his Volvo and become an expatriate in Jamaica. "Basketball's too important," says Robertson, flashing a grin. "For right now, anyway."