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Young Star, Old Soul
IAN THOMSEN
February 09, 2009
The Blazers have entrusted their future to a 24-year-old guard with the game of an aging veteran. Now, all that prematurely mature Brandon Roy has to do is learn to play like a kid
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February 09, 2009

Young Star, Old Soul

The Blazers have entrusted their future to a 24-year-old guard with the game of an aging veteran. Now, all that prematurely mature Brandon Roy has to do is learn to play like a kid

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ROY ISN'T worried about his staying power. "I see myself as having just as long of a career as I want," he says. "I look at some of the older guys and watch how they carry themselves, and they play a lot different in their later careers."

The irony is that Roy already plays like those older guys. "He is a glider, and I remember getting on him about playing harder," says Jason Jones, who was Roy's junior varsity coach at Garfield High. "Brandon would say, 'But, Coach, I am playing hard.' It was hard to recognize at first because you never see a kid that age play that mature style."

"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.' Even my first couple of practices with Nate, he was like, Brandon, push the ball down the court! But I am pushing it! I'm playing hard as heck out there. I'm beat, I'm tired."

So 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. "He's always on balance, so if someone reaches in, he's able to spin and he's not falling over," says Portland point guard Steve Blake, who becomes a spot-up shooter when Roy takes over in the fourth quarter. "Then he sees the next guy coming and he just goes into another move."

"Brandon has a crossover, a pump, a spin—he has three moves that will get you," says McMillan. Back off and he'll pour in jumpers out to the three-point line; guard Roy tight, and he'll lever on by. "He goes in straight lines," says New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul. "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. He uses his right hand and his left hand equally, and if he has to get that burst to dunk on you, he will." But only if he has to.

So where does Roy go from here? The answer goes against everything he believes in. "I need to make some mistakes," he says. "I need to make that tight pass, because I'm always trying to make the right pass. Even this year I've learned to shoot shots I wouldn't shoot in the past. Let go a little bit, don't try to play so under control. And I think that's where my potential lies—taking more risks, trying to play with more flair and having more fun out there."

If only the rest of the league had such problems.

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