9:33 PM EDT, March 10, 2013
The text messages or phone calls to Magic power forward Tobias Harris come weekly from the legend.
He often receives them after games from the 60-year-old man in Texas. Generations apart, they have little in common but basketball.
"He's cool," Harris said. "Probably the coolest guy I know."
Of course he's cool.
Harris knows him as "Ice."
He's George "Ice Man" Gervin — family friend, willing mentor, master of the finger roll and hall of famer.
Harris, 20, has been working on his game with Gervin since he was about 13, through high school, college and NBA levels.
"The advice Ice gives me is really on point, on key," Harris said. "The main thing he tells me is to have fun. You have fun, the game comes more naturally to you."
Their connection was inevitable. Harris' father, Torrel, a former player at Duquesne, struck up a friendship with Gervin decades ago. He eventually became his agent, representing Ice Man late in his post-NBA career overseas.
"I've known the family a long time," Gervin said by phone from San Antonio, where he played 12 years for the Spurs of the ABA/NBA. "Tobias can play, man. He understands the game. He loves the game. I'm proud of him."
Tobias has stayed at Gervin's home in San Antonio while training at the George Gervin Fitness and Wellness Center in San Antonio. He worked out with him last summer — going through drills and toiling at Gervin's rebounding machine — and expects to return this offseason.
Appearing in 12 consecutive all-star games, Gervin was a 6-foot-7 lanky and long-armed four-time scoring champion. Jerry West once said Gervin was one of the few players he'd pay to see play.
Tobias watched tapes of Ice Man in his prime and scouted him on ESPN Classic games.
"Ice could score the ball in so many ways. One of the things he's teaching me is to be unguardable," Harris said after making his first start Friday night since arriving in late February from the Bucks.
After averaging double figures through seven games, his debut in the lineup was largely forgettable: seven points on 2-of-8 shooting and eight rebounds.
"I'll probably speak to Ice after a night like tonight and see what he has to say," Harris said. "I'm sure it will be, 'Get back on the page and get ready for the next game.' "
When Tobias fell out of the rotation in Milwaukee this season, Gervin told him, " 'Young fella, man, your time is going to come.' Hopefully, it helped him and then — boom! — he gets a chance with the Magic."
Learning from the hands-on Ice Man for Tobias is akin to getting swing tips from Jack Nicklaus.
Harris said Gervin has taught him how to play in the post and attack defensive weakness. Mostly, the Ice Man stresses fundamentals, simplicity and patience.
"Just the basics, the simple stuff," Harris said. "He tells me you're not going to be the player you can be in a week. It takes time."
Gervin said he's always available to help young players. He certainly can offer perspective.
One of six children, Gervin grew up poor in Detroit. His love of the game kept him away from "crime, mischief, dope, or any of that other ghetto stuff."
He was almost cut from his high-school varsity team. He befriended a janitor at the school who let him in the gym at nights so he could practice shooting. In turn, young George had to sweep the floor before leaving.
Gervin blossomed into a star, but there was another life lesson to be learned: The easy-going player who would be nicknamed "The Ice Man" for his cool composure punched an opposing player while at Eastern Michigan and was kicked off the team.
He joined a semi-pro league and was discovered by a scout for the fledgling American Basketball Association. His teammate on the Virginia Squires was Dr. J. Gervin was then dealt to the Spurs.
Asked if Ice Man has shown him his trademark finger-roll shot, Harris laughed and shook his head: "Ice said, 'God didn't bless me with that gift.' "
Chuckled Gervin: "I can't teach that. You can't show them everything."
Back in the Magic' s locker room, Tobias checked his phone to see if the Ice Man calleth. Or texteth.
Tobias said there's one text he routinely receives from the legend.
"He'll text me: 'Keep having fun. Ice out!' "'
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