Nearly four weeks into the Persian Gulf War, U.S. Naval Academy graduate David Robinson is back in the business of being an NBA All-Star.
"At first, I was like most people - I would just sit, wait and watch," said Robinson, the starting center for the Western Conference in Sunday's All-Star game. "I was out of rhythm for three or four games, but now I'm focused on basketball again."Robinson is on the Navy's "selective reserve" list, which means he is subject to callup to active duty, but only if an officer with his skills is needed.
As a 7-foot-1 civil engineer, Robinson's chances of having to leave the San Antonio Spurs are slim, although he still will have reserve duty in the offseason.
"When the war started, I was deeply affected," he said Friday. "Everything else seemed so insignificant.
"Now that the news is coming at a slower pace than before, I've gotten focused again on my career. I've got to keep a professional attitude."
Robinson has been the best center in the NBA this season, leading the Spurs to a 32-13 record and first place in the Midwest Division. He is sixth in the league in scoring with a 26.3 average and is the leader in both rebounding (13.2) and blocked shots (4.24).
Robinson spent two years on active duty before joining the Spurs last season, when he was Rookie of the Year. Despite becoming an established star in less than two years in the NBA, Lt. j.g. Robinson still empathizes with his fellow servicemen.
"It's still devastating to me that my friends from school that I was serving with two years ago are in a situation where they might become a prisoner of war," Robinson said. "But basketball is my career now, and I have to concentrate on it."
At the All-Star break a year ago, Robinson was mentioned along with East starter Patrick Ewing and Houston's Akeem Olajuwon, out with an eye injury, as the best centers.
This year, he could be on the verge of standing alone, but said being recognized as the No. 1 center isn't necessarily a goal.
"Deep inside, everyone wants to be recognized as the best, but I can't make everyone think that," Robinson said. "Basically, I want to be respected. But time is on my side since I'm younger and less experienced than Akeem and Patrick."
Robinson said he has improved significantly from his rookie season.
"Especially, I'm more confident in my game than last year," he said. "I think I have more of an impact on a game."
Robinson, a reserve on the West All-Star team behind Olajuwon last year, was the conference's leading vote-getter this season with more than 700,000 votes.
"Being voted in by the fans isn't really an indication that I'm a better player than someone else," he said. "It's more of a popularity contest. I don't think anyone really thought A.C. Green was a better player than Karl Malone last year, and Green was a starter.
"But I'm honored to be a starter. Getting fan support is a great feeling."
Robinson will be joined in the West's starting lineup by guards Kevin Johnson and Magic Johnson and forwards Malone and Chris Mullin.
The East starters are Ewing at center, Bernard King and Charles Barkley at forward and Joe Dumars and Michael Jordan at guard. King and Dumars are replacing elected starters Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas, both injured.
The West reserves are Tom Chambers, Clyde Drexler, Kevin Duckworth, Tim Hardaway, Terry Porter, John Stockton and James Worthy.
The East backups are Brad Daugherty, Hersey Hawkins, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Ricky Pierce, Alvin Robertson and Dominique Wilkins.