Lounging on the bench for the San Antonio Spurs, not even suited up for this series because he's not good enough, is a silver-haired, 11-time scoring champion and seven-time most valuable player.

Andrew Gaze is a living legend in Australia, a stationary stiff in America.

"I'm just sort of sitting here, doing my thing," he said.

During these NBA Finals, which resumed Wednesday night with the Spurs leading the New York Knicks, 2-1, Gaze is reduced to wearing a fancy suit rather than a black-and-silver uniform.

After appearing in only 19 games during the season and scoring 21 points, Gaze was left off the playoff roster.

In 1989, Gaze led Seton Hall to within one game of an NCAA championship. He was a seldom-used rookie for the Washington Bullets in 1993-94. He returned to the NBA when the lockout ended, looking for one more NBA paycheck and one more jaunt around the league.

"I thought it was a fantastic opportunity at this stage of my career," he said after the Spurs' shoot-around Wednesday. "If I didn't accept it, I would have been kicking myself. Imagine if I was sitting home now watching this and saying `That could have been me?' Although it was tough to leave my team, it was just too good of an opportunity to turn down."

Gaze was averaging 33.5 points for the Melbourne Tigers of the National Basketball League when he left the team to sign with the Spurs.

He averaged between 31.5 and 38.7 points during the 11 years he led the Australian League in scoring. He also was a four-time member of the Australian national team, including the 1996 squad that defeated Croatia en route to a fourth-place finish at the Atlanta Olympics.

The success of that team led to NBA jobs for two Aussies, Shane Heal and Mark Bradtke.

Bradtke spent one season with the Philadelphia 76ers and Heal spent one season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"Shane got paid for three, though. He did well," Gaze said, acknowledging that one of the main attractions of coming to America was an NBA-sized paycheck. Gaze signed for one year and $350,000; his bonus if the Spurs win the title will be about $90,000.

"I think it takes some time to adjust," he said. "And a lot of players aren't prepared to sit around and do their time."

Gaze isn't sure of his plans for next season, but he does plan to play on the next Australian Olympic team in 2000 when the games will be in Sydney.

Aside from Bradtke and Heal, there will be three members of the Aussie team with NBA experience -- Luc Longley of Phoenix, Chris Antsey of Dallas and Paul Rogers of Toronto.

"For the first time we'll have size, and a very experienced group on our home soil makes for a very good combination," Gaze said.

CAPTION: Australian Andrew Gaze played in 19 games for the Spurs this season. He was left off the playoff roster.