The NBA celebrates NBA 75 roster players almost daily from now until the end of the season. Today’s honoree is George Gervin, who became the superstar as “the ice man” with the Spurs, but was traded to the Bulls near the end of his career. This column, by Jan Hubbard, originally appeared in the Nov. 11, 1985, issue of The Sporting News under the headline “Spurs should have negotiated with Gervin sooner.”

DALLAS – Sorry for the hype, but when you’ve been nailed as hard and as often as Angelo Drossos, it’s only natural to go on the offensive. Drossos understands that it does not matter if something is positive or negative, the only thing that matters is how it is perceived

Therefore, he does everything possible to turn something perceived as negative into positive for his San Antonio Spurs, who infuriated much of the media and the San Antonio public on October 24 when they traded George Gervin, the favorite son of the franchise, to Chicago by David Greenwood. .

At the time, Drossos, the Spurs president, said the trade “would probably be the most unpopular move in franchise history.”

NBA 75: George Gervin was ‘Iceberg Slim’ before his Spurs days

He probably was, but Gervin had cornered Spurs management and coach Cotton Fitzsimmons. Gervin had missed two practices without notifying Fitzsimmons, a demanding disciplinarian and teacher. Fitzsimmons said he had been forgiving of Gervin’s lax practice habits in the past, but had obviously had enough. So the Spurs gave Gervin the option to retire with full pay, accept a trade or be resigned.

The trade was consummated because Greenwood was not in Chicago’s plans, and Bulls coach Stan Albeck coached Gervin for three years in San Antonio.

Greenwood played much better than anyone expected after reporting to San Antonio. In a game against Utah, he had 20 rebounds. As Drossos said, “You could lock some forwards in a gym by themselves and they still wouldn’t get 20 rebounds.”

After. Drossos tried to silence some of the criticism of the Gervin trade by saying that the Spurs were going to have the most exciting team we’ve had in 13 years. “

That’s a bit steep, especially considering Doug Moe’s exciting teams from the late ’70s. Remember the Spurs running and shooting with Gervin, James Silas and Larry Kenon? Or what about Albeck’s teams that averaged 51 wins per season for three years through 1983? The preseason tipsters were so impressed with the current “exciting” Spurs that it was popular to put them in the basement of the Midwest Division.

And Spurs fans weren’t that excited, either. On the night, Greenwood had 20 rebounds against Utah, only 5,213 called to watch the game. When the Dallas Chaparrals of the American Basketball Association moved to San Antonio and became the Spurs in 1973, there were 16 fewer crowds than that. Since then, however, there have only been three smaller ones, and none have been smaller since the Spurs and three other ABA teams joined the NBA in 1976.

Despite all the negative ramifications, the Spurs did the right thing in making the trade. Greenwood hasn’t played particularly well the last three years, but he’s only 28. He was the second player chosen in the 1979 draft after the Lakers chose Magic Johnson.

The past two years, the Spurs have won 37 and 11 games, respectively, with Gervin, who is 33 years old. If anything, the Spurs should have made the decision to rebuild by trading Gervin earlier.

They have yet to rebuild. Artis Gilmore is 36 years old and is about to retire. But with Greenwood, Steve Johnson (28), Johnny Moore (27), Mike Mitchell (29) and Alvin Robertson (23) showing signs of stardom on guard, the Spurs have a core of youth and experience.

They are also tall: six players ages 6 to 9 or older. And it is a team that has nothing to lose due to low expectations. When talking about the team. Fitzsimmons says. “This is a fun team to coach.” The implication is obvious: it was no longer fun to make concessions to Gervin.

However, the Spurs will have two initial problems. Free agents Marc Lavaoni and Wes Matthews did not join the team until two weeks after training camp began. Guard Jon Sundvold was acquired from Seattle two days before the regular season. Greenwood was acquired the next day. Moore, another free agent, signed after the season began. In total, there are eight players on the roster who weren’t with the team this time a year ago.

“We have to get to know each other,” Fitzsimmons said. “We are playing how I want. We are pushing the ball up, chasing everyone on defense, working really hard. But it’s hard to get continuity for 48 minutes. “

And until the Spurs get continuity and start winning consistently, fans won’t be excited about paying for tickets. However, the franchise is not in jeopardy. Due to the nice concessions and stadium lease agreements, Drossos said: “We are financially healthy.”

But they are without the Iceman, and it seems strange. For 13 years. George Gervin was the San Antonio Spurs. However, even the legends are exchanged.

“It was very hard to imagine,” Mitchell said, “but then you have to come back to reality, and that kind of thing can happen in the NBA. This is a business. Whatever happens, the best in the world can be negotiated. The rest of us have to carry on. “