SAN ANTONIO -- When Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon was voted by the fans to start tomorrow's All-Star Game, he did what he thought was the decent thing to do: He offered his starting position to San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson.
"It was a classy gesture," Robinson said. "But he was the one the fans voted in. I couldn't accept it."
So Robinson, making his seventh All-Star appearance, will come off the bench for the Western Conference. The Naval Academy graduate doesn't mind; he's just happy that the city is being showcased.
"Sometimes you're in San Antonio and you feel like you're on the fringe of the NBA, on the outside looking in," Robinson said. "And to be the central point as part of the NBA this weekend is special for our fans."
Robinson, 30, sees himself as a bridge between two groups of players: the older, most established stars like Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, and the younger players like Grant Hill and Jason Kidd.
"For me, it's great to feel like a a part of the generation that just left, or is leaving now, and still be a part of this generation," Robinson said. "The older players had a level of competition, a level of professionalism that is sometimes lost today.
"Guys like Julius [Erving], Magic [Johnson] or Larry [Bird] took years to establish themselves," Robinson added. "It seems guys today aren't really willing to do that. In the first year, they want to do everything."
Old rivalry revisited
Ever since he was selected to play in tonight's rookie game, Washington Bullets forward Rasheed Wallace has said it was not a big deal, that he felt "just regular." But the rookie had a different attitude and a new look after arriving here yesterday.
"I'm more excited," said Wallace, who was sporting a new haircut. "I guess you get more excited once an event happens."
And Wallace said he'll be even more excited during the game, when he gets to relive his ACC battles while playing against Golden State Warriors rookie Joe Smith.
"The thing I like about the rookie game is that you can't foul out," Wallace said. "I already told Joe that I'm coming after him."
Smith laughed when told about the warning.
"Tell Rasheed that goes both ways," Smith said. "I'm looking forward to getting on the court against him. It'll be just like the old North Carolina-Maryland games."
The Rodman issue
Commissioner David Stern, during his yearly question-and-answer session about the state of the NBA, wanted to address the Dennis Rodman issue.
"I can assure Dennis that there is no conspiracy to keep him out of the All-Star Game," Stern said. "Dennis is a very interesting person and actually has developed a significant international following, and I am kind of sorry he is not on the team for a lot of reasons. But this is the way it came out."