"We just came here to entertain a little, give the fans something," said George Gervin, San Antonio scoring ace voted most valuable player in the 30th annual NBA All-Star Game yesterday. "The game is like a vacation, but I had to work a little. Fortunately, I played pretty well."
The man they call "Ice" was very nice.
He gave the capacity crowd of 19,035 at Capital Centre a bundle of thrills and chills as he twirled and twisted his way to a game-high 34 points, leading the East All-Stars to a 144-136 overtime triumph over the West.
"The Iceman cometh and he goeth," one fan said after the 6-foot-8 finger-roll master slipped inside for one of his blind layups. "He hasn't cracked a smile yet."
Smiles don't show on the stat sheets, but Gervin did have 10 rebounds, three steals and three assists to go with all those points in 40 minutes. "This is the type of game you try not to be too serious about but near the end you know it's going to be competitive," he said. "There's a lot of pride out there."
The wild, 2 3/4-hour affair had a bit of everything. Basketball purists would have been pleased with some of the team play demonstrated by the all-stars, not to mention all manner of slam dunks and razzle-dazzle. Every player scored and a total of 68 assists were credited.
"You start looking for the guys who are hitting and you give them the ball," said Julius (Dr. J) Erving of the 76ers "Gervin was rolling throughout the game so we gave it up. We stuck with him."
From the opening minutes when the Ice Man went behind the basket and dipped underneath the long arms of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to flip in a backward reverse layup, the West team knew it was in for a long afternoon.
"The Ice Man is going to play the way he always plays: Good," said San Diego's Lloyd Free, who occasionally has the responsibility of guarding the Spurs' star.
Good was not a strong enough word for the slender jump shooter for the first three periods. By then he had 30 of his points, following a 13-point third period.
When Gervin turned spectator, Eddie Johnson and Dan Roundfield, both of Atlanta, took turns being brilliant. All made significant contributions in a fast-paced third quarter that saw the East break away from a 64-64 halftime tie to go up, 108-91.
"We thought we had them after that third quarter," said Erving, who had only 11 points. "We hoped we could hold them off in the fourth period. Well, anyway, it made for an exciting finish."
Phoenix's Paul Westphal, who had eight points in the West's fourth-quarter comback, said, "We had to do something in the fourth period. We didn't want to be embarrassed."
Of the 280 points scored, the one basket that brought the loudest roar was the result of a blind rebound pass from Larry Bird to Gervin for a layup for the game's final points.
Bird, who didn't make much of a contribution until the final minutes, leaped high just outside the foul line for an apparent offensive rebound. But instead of grabbing the ball, he flicked it in one motion to Gervin, who was alone underneath.
The Boston rookie insisted the play was planned. "I saw George underneath and wanted to get the ball back to him," he said.
Washington Bullet forward Elvin Hayes, who got a rousing 35-second standing ovation in the pregame introductions, also did a fine job against Abdul-Jabbar in the final period.
"We didn't want him to get into his game at the end," said Hayes, who scored 12 points and was cheered each time he touched the ball. I tried to tell Bill (Cartwright) and Moses (Malone; to make it tough for Kareem to get his position.
"It was nice to hear the people calling for me at the end," Hayes said. "It showed they had confidence in me."
Losing Coach Len Wilkins of Seattle had only praise for his team.
"Our guys didn't give up," he said. "They stayed in there and came back. It was a great spectator game. I think the fans got their money's worth."
No one was disputing the choice of GERVIN AS THE MVP.
"This was my kind of game, a lot of scoring and not much 'D'," said Gervin, finally smiling. "But then, that's why we came here, to have fun and entertain. I think we did that. At least I tried."