NEXT: BRANDON ROY
Playmaker of the Year
To hear head coach Nate McMillan tell it, the Trail Blazers became Roy's team last February. That's when the rookie guard decided he'd heard enough out of veteran Zach Randolph. In what had become a postgame locker room tradition, Randolph was spouting off about his teammates' deficiencies without acknowledging his own. "You need to pick up your game," Roy told the petulant forward. Everyone fell silent, including Randolph.
"Up to that point," McMillan says, "not even the veterans would say anything to Zach."
Roy went on to become Rookie of the Year, averaging 16 points and four assists a game; after the season, Portland traded Randolph to the Knicks, cutting ties to a troubled era.
The 23-year-old Roy, who spent four years at the University of Washington, has shown not only veteran maturity but also a firm grasp of fundamentals. In fact, it's hard to find a hole in his game. He has a filthy crossover and a liquid ability to slide his 6'6" frame through small spaces, and he's opportunistic on defense. And with forward LaMarcus Aldridge emerging and injured center Greg Oden waiting in the wings, Roy is just warming up. "Brandon gets it," McMillan says. "I can't put it any better than that." No need, Nate. Roy's game already speaks for itself.
- TIM KEOWN
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