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ROBINSON GETS THE ATTENTION OF STOCKTON AND VICE VERSA

AFTER THE UTAH JAZZ successfully managed to keep the San Antonio Spurs at bay last night in the Delta Center in a featured battle between the one-two teams in the Midwest Division, Jazz guard John Stockton permitted himself a flashback to marvel at the play of Spurs center David Robinson.

"There was one dunk he had tonight," said Stockton, not necessarily one for superlatives and never one for false praise, "Strickland passed him the ball and I thought it was too far behind him. But he just reached back and got it. I stood there and thought, 'Oh my goodness.' Likewise Robinson. Despite the 102-93 setback that leaves the Spurs now four full games behind the Jazz, he nonetheless filed away some memories to savor of Stockton in his prime time."I don't know how he gets some of those passes of his off," said the Spurs center after emerging from a long shower. "I remember that one he threw just before the half. I thought I had him covered. Then he got the ball out to the three-point line. How does he do that?" The league's best big man (the 7-foot-1, 235-pound Robinson) and the league's best little man (the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Stockton) had run into each other, figuratively and literally, and they were suitably wowed. They both sounded as if they wished they could be in the other's shoes - at least for one game.

Both are having MVP-consideration seasons. Robinson is eighth in scoring (23.3), fifth in field goal percentage (.564), fifth in steals (2.26), fifth in rebounds (12.1) and first in blocks (4.72) in the NBA, the only five-category player on the charts. Stockton is sixth in three-point field goal percentage (.424), second in steals (2.82) and not only first in assists (14.1 per game) but on a pace to set yet another all-time NBA single-season assist total, which would be his third straight and fourth in five seasons.

"Put Stockton with just about anybody and you've got problems," said Robinson. "He did a nice job tonight with (Karl) Malone but he did a nice job with (Mike) Brown too. He's just a great passer. He can get anybody the ball."

Robinson remembered, and not without pain, the numerous pick-and-rolls successfully executed by Stockton and the Jazz. "We didn't communicate. We had defensive letdowns," he said. "And then they let Stockton get away with murder setting those picks. Those aren't picks, those are body blocks. I don't know why they let those go. I guess 'cause they think he's little."

Stockton leveled Robinson with one of his picks on one of the first Jazz offensive plays of the game.

"I set legal, fair, picks," said Stockton cheerfully, not at all unflattered by Robinson's accusation.

"The thing with a player like him," said Stockton, still talking about Robinson, "is he's such a defensive force, you try to force him out and involve him away from the basket - so he can't just hang in the paint and swat everybody's shots away. You're not always successful. But you have to try to get him to come outside."

Ideally, you get him chasing someone like Malone, who is an outside shooting threat as well as an inside player.

"It's frustrating against those two together," said Robinson. "You don't want to just let Stockton get him the ball and then let Malone step back and shoot from outside. He makes those - and they can be backbreakers. But you don't want to step up and let him get around you for a layup either."

It was only three weeks ago that Robinson and Stockton (and Karl Malone, for that matter) were teammates - competing for the West Squad in the NBA All-Star Game.

"It was great getting his (Stockton's) passes as an All-Star," said Robinson, "and it will be great playing with him this summer (in the Olympics). But was that any kind of a consolation tonight? "No, it was no consolation."

Stockton, too, said the past and the future have no place in the present, especially when the present involves a playoff race. And for the foreseeable future, he'll wish Robinson nothing but bad fortune when they meet.

"But when I think about the Olympics," said Stockton, "I think that that won't be a bad guy to pass to."