'Admiral' navigates toward MVP


San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson recently was asked about the attributes that make a player a Most Valuable Player candidate.

"In my opinion, what makes an MVP is a guy who wins," Robinson said. "I don't think you can be valuable if your team doesn't have success. You're valuable when you make your team better, when a guy brings his team to another level."

With that description, Robinson has to be considered the front-runner for this year's award. His dominating play has helped the Spurs to a 44-19 record and a tie for first place in the Midwest Division.

The former Navy star is second in the league in scoring with 28.6 points a game. He is third in the league in blocks (3.48) and 12th in rebounds (10.6). And Robinson's 5.0 assists per game put him as the only nonguard in the top 25 (he is tied for 25th). Those numbers have had San Antonio coach John Lucas raving about how the league is separated between Robinson and everybody else, in terms of who's this season's MVP.

"He's my biggest supporter," Robinson said about Lucas. "I don't know, I don't see all the other guys play all the time.

"Right now, there's no question I'm playing as well as I ever have. For the first time they're using me in a way where I can be as effective as possible. I'm really learning how to play facing the basket. It's scary to think if I learn and get more comfortable, then I'll be better and better."

Robinson said the trade that brought Dennis Rodman to San Antonio has helped step up his game. In his four previous seasons Robinson has been criticized for being soft, but playing with a powder keg like Rodman has helped Robinson compete with a lot more emotion and toughness.

"Now I feel like I'm going to battle with some ammunition," Robinson said of Rodman, who leads the league in rebounding. "I don't always agree with the things Dennis does or says, but the thing I respect is he knows how to win and has a tremendous desire to win."

But is that combination good enough to compete for an NBA title? The Spurs have some problems in the backcourt, where Vinny Del Negro is not exactly a prototype point guard and Willie Anderson is not a typical shooting guard. But the Spurs, led by the "The Admiral," continue to roll.

"Early I felt we had a whole new look and I felt maybe we wouldn't be able to get it together before the playoffs come around," Robinson said. "I really feel like this team is coming together."

Robinson, Shaq sling words

If you didn't know they were basketball players, you might have thought that Robinson and Orlando Magic center Shaquille O'Neal were promoting a pay-per-view battle last week.

The usually mild-mannered Robinson got a little bent out of shape when, during a teleconference call just three days after his Spurs defeated the Magic in a nationally televised game, he was asked about the perception O'Neal has of not getting his proper respect around the league.

"It's amazing to me that we get so many Shaquille questions. It just blows my mind," said Robinson, laughing as he spoke. "Who is Shaquille? Why should I lose sleep over the fact that he's upset?

"He's definitely a good player, but everybody plays up to him so much. It blows my mind how much everyone is concerned about how he feels, that he feels neglected. . . . He talks about people being jealous of him, but he has nothing that we would want, yet. He has a world of potential, but that's not worth a whole lot unless you realize those dreams."

By nightfall O'Neal had heard the comments by Robinson, who was the only Western Conference player who admitted to playing a little harder against the Orlando center during the All-Star Game last month.

"If there's a day that David dominates me, it's because he has help," O'Neal told the Orlando Sentinel. "He will never play me one-on-one. He needs to stick to church-going, and not trash-talking."

The next matchup between the two leading scorers in the league likely will have to wait until next year, because Robinson and O'Neal (28 ppg) already have faced each other twice, and San Antonio won both meetings. The only way the two would face each other again this season would be in the NBA finals -- a possible but unlikely scenario.

Quote of the week

From Phoenix Suns center Mark West after listening to teammate A. C. Green -- an admitted virgin -- talk about abstinence while leading the life of an NBA player:

"Temptation is a powerful thing -- especially when it's dressed up like Halle Berry."

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