Blazer guard faces Charlotte's Adam Morrison for the second time
On Thursday night, the two leading candidates for NBA rookie of the year collide when Brandon Roy and the Trail Blazers play host to Adam Morrison and the Charlotte Bobcats in the Rose Garden.
Members of the media will decide the winner after the season, but Portland coach Nate McMillan isn't afraid to offer an opinion on behalf of his player.
'I know my vote doesn't count,' McMillan says. 'Morrison has had some good games, but for us, Brandon has been the difference in about 10 to 15 games. Probably three of those games we didn't win, but he was able to get us into overtime with a shot or his play.
'There have been a number of games he has been a difference-maker. I hope the national media is paying attention.'
Roy earned bragging rights in the first head-to-head competition Feb. 9 when Portland won 108-100 in overtime at Charlotte. Roy didn't have a great game, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists. But he nailed a 3-pointer with eight seconds left to send the game into an extra session.
Morrison, meanwhile, was a total nonfactor, making only 3 of 12 shots and collecting seven points, four rebounds and no assists.
'Now I have a chance to pick up another win on him at home,' Roy says. 'More than that, though, these are such big games for us the rest of the way.'
Roy, the No. 6 pick in the NBA draft, is on a short list of R-O-Y candidates that includes Morrison (No. 3), Toronto's Andrea Bargnani (No. 1) and Jorge Garbajosa and perhaps Memphis' Rudy Gay (No. 8). Roy isn't allowing himself to get caught up in any hype about becoming the first Portland player to win the award since Sidney Wicks in 1971-72.
'I try not to think about it,' Roy says. 'It could be a distraction, added pressure I don't need right now. The team is doing good. People are saying 'playoffs.' That's what I'm trying to work on.
'I just try to play and help my team win. That's been good enough to put me in the race for rookie of the year, so I'll continue to approach it like that.'
Roy dominated another head-to-head meeting Friday in Portland's 103-102 loss to Memphis. The 6-6 guard out of Washington had a fine all-around game with 19 points, six assists and five rebounds in 37 minutes. The 6-8 Gay had 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting to go with six rebounds and one assist in 33 minutes.
'But he won the game,' Roy observes. 'That's what counts.'
Roy is high on Gay, who worked out with Roy and Morrison in Portland before the draft last season. Gay returns the favor.
'If I had a (rookie of the year) vote, it would definitely be Brandon,' Gay says. 'He has a lot in his game right now, and he's going to get so much better, so much stronger. I like his in-between game. When he gets the ball from the free-throw line in, it's hard to stop him.'
Roy and Morrison were cross-state rivals in college (Morrison at Gonzaga) and finalists for the 2006 John R. Wooden Award, given annually to the nation's top college player (Duke's J.J. Reddick won).
'Adam is a good guy,' Roy says. 'People compared us a lot in college because Gonzaga and Washington are kind of a rivalry. I got a chance to sit down with him for the first time at the Wooden Award banquet. We talked for a long time. We realized we had a lot of things in common and a respect for each other. Ever since then, we've been real close - he's a friend of mine now. But we'll continue to compete on the basketball court.'
Roy has the edge on Morrison in every major statistical category this season. And missing 20 games early in the season with a foot injury hasn't affected Roy's R-O-Y candidacy, Memphis veteran Damon Stoudamire says.
'He'd be a clear-cut choice if he hadn't been injured, but I'd go for him right now, anyway,' says Stoudamire, who was rookie of the year with Toronto in 1995-96. 'Most years, you have three or four rookies who come in and really make an impact. This year, it seems like a lot of them have had their spots, but he's been the one who's been consistent. Roy is playing the best of all the rookies.'