When Roy flies, so do Blazers

On Sports

Can a player become recognized as one of the best in basketball without the special flair it takes to become a commercial icon?

You know, the ballhandling wizardry of Steve Nash or the magnetic charisma of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant?

Is the NBA ready for a player who can dominate a game the old-fashioned way, with fundamentals, guile and deceptive physical skills?

We're going to find out, because that's what Brandon Roy seems intent on doing this season.

The Trail Blazers' second-year guard is old-school crafty and a little more explosive than he looks. And, in the last month, he's brought his game up to an elite level, making 25-point, nine-assist, eight-rebound nights look routine.

'He's the third-best all-around player in the league,' Magic Johnson blurted out during a TNT telecast Thursday night, probably placing Roy behind only Bryant and James.

Roy doesn't fly over people, doesn't make the highlight packages every night with spectacular dunks and doesn't do any national commercials that feature his spectacular plays.

What he does is make his teammates better - lately, lots better.

He's also able, almost whenever he wants, to get to the basket for layups - even in the face of packed-in zone defenses or double teams. The communication between his brain and his feet is on the genius level - he's able to see a slight opening and get the word to his body in a hurry, able to command his feet to respond immediately … before the glint of daylight closes.

When he gets to the basket, he can finish with either hand, banking the ball off the glass, floating the ball over defenders or dunking it, often fooling people with his final burst as he gets the ball over the rim before they can block it.

When he becomes a better outside shooter, which usually happens in the NBA with experience, he's going to be even more impossible to guard.

I think in today's world, where the ability to soar and dunk in flamboyant ways often is valued more than calm effectiveness, recognition will come more slowly for Roy than it has for a good many others.

But after watching Roy over the last month, the cold-blooded efficiency of his game has become apparent.

This guy is an assassin.

In the look-at-me world of today's sports (not just the pros, but also the colleges), it's so refreshing to see someone seemingly more interested in the substance than the style. With Roy, there is a minimum of chest pounding, trash talking, screaming and drawing attention to himself. This guy has been almost Oscar Robertson-like in his stoic domination.

Last season, he won the rookie of the year award but wasn't at the level he is now. He wasn't an All-Star. What's been going on for the last several weeks is something special.

If it continues, the Trail Blazers are going to be a whole lot better than we thought they were going to be.

And a lot sooner, too.

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