David Robinson balanced himself on crutches in the locker room and wondered about all that had gone wrong this season.
“It seems like we’ve just been snakebit,” he said.
Robinson missed the first 18 games of the season with a back injury. Now he has a broken left foot, and the San Antonio Spurs star center will be out six weeks.
The latest injury, to the fifth metatarsal, came during Monday night’s 90-79 loss at home to the Miami Heat. This week he will have surgery in which a screw will be placed in the broken bone.
In all, Robinson has played just six games this year, and the result has been devastating. The Spurs, the two-time defending Midwest Division champions, are 6-18.
Robinson’s absence is not the only reason for the dreadful start. Eight Spurs have missed games because of injuries.
Forward Chuck Person, the team’s most consistent long-range shooter, had back surgery in October and may not return this season. Charles Smith, who was expected to be a force at power forward, has missed 20 games with chronic pain in his right knee.
But Robinson’s absence has been the most telling. The team started the season 3-15 without him, a record that led to the firing of coach Bob Hill the day Robinson returned to the lineup.
General manager Gregg Popovich, who replaced Hill, now tries to keep the team afloat.
“We’re going to have to go to work on what this team needs to do to win (without Robinson),” Popovich said.
With Robinson back, the Spurs were beginning to show signs of life. They had a three-game winning streak before the loss to the Heat.
“I’m hoping that now that we’ve had a little taste of success this past week, we can come back and win the games we gave away earlier in the season,” Robinson said. “We have to beat the sub-.500 teams. The playoffs have to be our goal, if we can just hold out four to five weeks.”
Among the Spurs’ 18 losses are two to Vancouver and two to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“This certainly puts a damper on things, but we can’t get down on ourselves,” said Dominique Wilkins, who led the Spurs in scoring and rebounding in Robinson’s first absence. “He’s simply not going to be here, so we have to hold down the fort.”
Avery Johnson looked back over the Spurs’ 121 victories the last two seasons and figured that maybe it was time for some bad luck.
“We have been so fortunate the last two years,” the point guard said. “We haven’t had that many players miss big games due to injuries. We’ve been blessed in that way. This year’s been different. It really makes you appreciate the good fortune you’ve had in the past.”
But that’s the past.
“This is a nightmare for a player,” Robinson said. “I was just getting back into sync and I felt strong and was getting good quality minutes. And now I have to get psyched about rehab again.”
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