The Spurs have been troubled by injuries to point guard Rod Strickland and forward Terry Cummings, who are both playing again, and the team has been unsettled by bickering between Brown and Cummings, whose intensity and shot selection Brown has openly questioned after nine seasons. "When you get an older player who's been doing the same things for a long time and he's had some success with some teams, it may be a different story trying to change him," Robinson says. "Last year he fit in great. What's the difference between last year and this year?"
That question may continue to hang over San Antonio in the coming weeks, as will another one: Can a team whose go-to player has no go-to shot prosper in the half-court bump-and-grind of the NBA playoffs? Here the comparison with the ever-confident Russell breaks down, because not even Robinson is sure he has the tools to lead his team to a title. And as he notes, a supporting cast is important. "When we lost Rod and Terry, the team was looking to me to score at the end of the game," Robinson says. "That was a time when I did need a go-to move and I didn't have it, so it made it kind of tough. I definitely think it would be a big, big advantage if I had one."
If Robinson considers himself to be at a disadvantage in anyway, he does not show it. On the court his expression is imperious, one eyebrow perpetually arched so that his supercilium is now as bulked up as his biceps. Away from the game Robinson creates a protective cocoon for himself by rarely making eye contact; he looks down at others out of the corner of his eye and from a very great height. One member of the Spur front office grew increasingly certain that Robinson, to whom he had been introduced, had forgotten who he was when each subsequent encounter produced nothing but a blank stare. "We've all gotten used to that look," says another member of the Spur staff. Finally, one day Robinson walked up to the front-office guy and began talking, and he didn't stop for 30 minutes.
Robinson chooses his audiences carefully now, determining the time and place of each new performance, measuring who is worthy and who is not. "It's an opportunity for me to express what's inside of me," Robinson says, referring to his game and to his music and to his life. "All the moves have been made thousands of times before, and everything you play has already been played. But you're doing it with your own flair, and that makes it all yours. You see, it's not really for anybody else. It's for me, just for me."