David Robinson has to stop spending so much time sitting near John Thompson if the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team is to have a solid chance at the gold medal in Seoul next month.
The 7-foot anchor with the rank of ensign has been severely limited in playing time during the Olympic finalists tour against teams of NBA players.
He has been saddled with personal fouls, a lot of fouls. Fifteen in 70 minutes in four games. That's too many.
"It's something I've never had a problem with before," Robinson after scoring six points in a 100-67 Olympic victory Friday night.
He played just 12 minutes. He had three fouls in 5:18 of the first half and picked up No. 4 just 29 seconds into the second half.
"It's silly fouls _ not moving my feet, stuff like that. I need to cut that stuff out. I can't help this team on the bench. I just have to be smarter. They're dumb fouls." Thompson is concerned about Robinson's extended bench visits but he also defends his center to an extent.
"I think that and other things are what we are concerned with and I think it has a lot more to it than just with David," Thompson said after his team went 4-0 against the professional players. "We have got to give support, the people that are playing the ball, they have to stop penetration. That was one of the things I was talking to the kids about. I didn't like our team defense.
"You've got to realize all balls come to the center and the perimeter people are not giving support. He now has to be in a position to try to block more shots. A lot of them he has to be responsible for and get himself in the right position."
Robinson's foul problems could go a long way toward determining which 12 players of the 14 remaining will be selected for the team.
Robinson's foul problems could be what keeps high schooler Alonzo Mourning on the final roster.
Thompson has said that Mourning, his collegiate recruit at Georgetown, and J.R. Reid of North Carolina are the only physical post players in the group. Thompson might have to keep both even if he didn't intend to because Robinson has been so inconsistent with the amount time he has been in the game.
Robinson, the 1987 collegiate player of the year at Navy and the NBA's No. 1 draft choice, won't blame anyone but himself for the constant whistles.
"When I have a problem I look at myself. It's something I'm doing wrong. We have to learn to adjust. You can try to blame it on the refs but you know how they're calling the game. You have to adjust to that."
Robinson has not played competitively in more than a year while serving his military obligation before joining the San Antonio Spurs with whom he has signed an eight-year $26 million contract.
"I'm letting people drive around me on the baseline. A couple of people drove on me tonight. I'm better than that. None of those guys are quicker than me, none of them. I just have to be quicker."
The players he has been going against on the tour are the same ones he start playing against after next season as the center and title hope for San Antonio.