Monday, February 9, 2009

Basketball's Benjamin Button

How good is Brandon Roy?

He's so good that BOS coach Doc Rivers has put together highlight videos of Roy that he gives to his sons to study.

"He's one of my favorite players in the league," says Coach Rivers. "He plays under control, he plays unselfishly, and he plays at gears that young players don't play at. Most young players play fast and out of control, and for them it's all about getting 'my shots.' But his whole attitude is based on team play."

As Ian Thomsen describes him in his story today on, "the 6'6" Roy plays like an aging vet who takes pride in outsmarting the rim-scrapers while conserving energy to extend his career. In fact, he is a 24-year-old blessed with a 41-inch vertical leap, which he uses only when necessary. He wears neither tattoos nor jewelry. In this era of unparalleled athleticism and style over substance, Brandon Roy is the NBA's curious version of Benjamin Button—a young body driven by an old-school mind."

Says Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard: "He absolutely changed the direction of our team."

According to Roy, many mistake his style of play for a lack of intensity:

"I would get so mad because I would be trying to run harder, but my game would never let me get out of control," says Roy. "When I went to college, right away coach [Lorenzo] Romar was like, This guy just doesn't go hard. He was just hammering me, hammering me, hammering me, and I would say, 'Coach, I am playing hard.'"

So, asks Thomsen, "how does he make the spectacular look so effortless?"

The answer is fundamental: Roy can dribble so well that you can't tell which is his weak hand, and at 211 pounds he has the size to shield the ball as he reads the defense and waits for a play to develop. He has a coach's mind, an intuitive understanding of teammates and opponents swirling around him as if they were X's and O's diagrammed on a whiteboard.

Teammate Steve Blake contends that Roy is "always on balance, so if someone reaches in, he's able to spin and he's not falling over."

POR coach Nate McMillan says Roy has "three moves that will get you... a crossover, a pump, a spin."

According to Chris Paul, it's a matter of angles and efficiency:

"He goes in straight lines. Anybody who knows basketball knows if you go around a guy, you need to go right by him. He takes a minimal amount of steps, and then he's at the rim."

To improve, Roy says he needs "to make some mistakes."

"I think that's where my potential lies — taking more risks, trying to play with more flair and having more fun out there."