SAN ANTONIO (AP) – When San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich sent Glenn Robinson into Thursday night’s game late in the first quarter, Robinson didn’t budge from the bench.

“When he called my name, I thought he said Brent,”‘ Robinson said Friday, referring to teammate Brent Barry. “Then he came and stared at me, it was like, Glenn, get in the game!”‘

Robinson had good reason to stay seated with his warmups on during Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons.

Before the game started, Popovich said he could envision only a couple of scenarios in which Robinson would get playing time.

“People foul out and people get hurt,” Popovich said. “That’s about it.”

Add to that short list Bruce Bowen picking up an early second foul guarding Richard Hamilton, and Robinson quickly made Popovich’s move look smart. He threw down a dunk with about 90 seconds left in the first as part of a 13-3 run that got the Spurs back into the game. San Antonio went on to win 84-69.

Those were the only points, but Robinson also grabbed three rebounds and a team-high three blocks during his six minutes of action.

“He came in and obviously did what we wanted him to do,” Spurs star Tim Duncan said. “Pop has a lot of confidence in him. He understands that he knows how to play the game and if we can get him in the right rhythm, right state of mind, he can really help us.”

It’s been a tough year for Robinson, a career 20.8-point scorer in 10-plus NBA seasons after being selected by Milwaukee with the No. 1 overall pick in 1994 after his stellar college career at Purdue.

He lost his starting job with Philadelphia during training camp and began the season on the injured list. The 76ers traded him to New Orleans in February in a move by both teams to clear salary-cap space, and within a week the Hornets released him.

San Antonio signed Robinson as a free agent in early April, and even though he hadn’t played in more than a year, he averaged 10 points in the final nine games of the regular season.

His minutes and his scoring average were cut roughly in half during the first two playoff series against Denver and Seattle, and he didn’t play in the five-game Western Conference finals versus Phoenix.

He missed the first three games to be with his mother, Christine Bridgeman, who was dying from cancer, and he wasn’t ready physically for the other two.

Robinson said he seriously considered not returning after his mother’s death last month.

“When it all boils down to it, it’s just a game, and now I’m playing this game for my mother, God bless her soul,” he said. “She wanted me to be here and she wanted me to play, so I’m going to do it for her.”

Until this season, Robinson only knew how to be a starter and, for most of his career, his team’s No. 1 scoring option.

With the Spurs, however, he realizes that he’s a role player and that his stretches on the court will be brief.

“I will be going into a losing battle if went to Pop and said, Man, I want more minutes. I need to play 30 minutes,”‘ he said. “I’m just another piece to the puzzle. When things isn’t going right, hopefully I can be another body that can come in and add a little spark for the team until the starters get back in gear.”

Bowen, the team’s top perimeter defender, said the offense-minded Robinson has been trying to get in touch with his inner defender.

“It’s in everybody and they just choose to play defense if they want to,” Bowen said. “It’s a choice, and (Robinson) chooses to play it for us because he understands that’s what we’re about.”

Robinson said he’s ready to do whatever it takes in his first trip to the championship series.

“It’s what everybody plays for, to make it to this round,” he said. “The last three years I haven’t been in the playoffs, so just to be able to play this time of year, that’s big.”

AP-ES-06-10-05 1911EDT


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