Interview: Roy on body control, using his left hand, and slowing down the game
Transcript of an interview conducted Friday with Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy.
Roy on his body control, particularly when driving the lane, and how it is one of the key facets of his offensive game:
It’s weird you say that. Because a lot of people — I think even since I was younger — they’ve always said I had good control. I’ve always been on balance. I played soccer as a kid. And little league Pop Warner football, I was a running back. So, I was always the guy that they’re, ‘You’ve got great balance.’ And even my football coach: ‘You’ve got great balance.’ I don’t know. That may be a gift I was born with. I don’t know if I developed it as much. (Laughs). Because, as far as I can remember, I’ve always been on balance. I started to learn that was a strength of mine as I got older, and take more advantage of it. And, I think, in high school, I had torn my (left) meniscus. People don’t know it, but I was a leaper. People used to say, ‘Oh, all he does is dunk. He just jumps. He’s athletic.’ But when I tore my meniscus — in high school; my junior year — it kind of changed my approach. Because, I didn’t get the surgery right away. And it was a big summer for me in recruiting. So, I played the summer with it. And I wasn’t a leaper — I had to change my game. So, even when I had the surgery and I came back and I was able to be a leaper again — I had played two months on a torn meniscus; I had got used to playing a slower game; a more on-balance game. Breaking stuff down and reading (plays). And I couldn’t win with just my strength anymore or my quickness. I had to outthink a guy or outsmart a guy. So, that’s when I kind of became — my teammate in high school, Anthony Washington, he always said, ‘You’re like a counter-boxer.’ He’s like, ‘If a guy cuts you off, you spin. If a guy does this, you go through the legs. It seems like you’ve always got another move for what the defense do.’ He said, ‘You’re a counter basketball player.’ And I was like, ‘Hey. I like that.’ (Laughs) So, I kind of started, I guess, trying to get better at being on balance. And a big thing is, when I’m in the paint, guys are always flying around, but I always feel like I’m on balance. There’s some games where I’m like, ‘Man, my legs aren’t underneath me.’ But, for the most part, I always feel like I’m on balance and I’m reading things pretty good. Some of it, I think, is due to that injury. Because before that, I was on balance, but I tried to win with speed and strength. But when that slowed me down and I had to play with all these good players, I had to use a different way to try and beat them.
On using his footwork and body control to gain separation from defenders:
My thing is, I worked on it as a kid. I would play one on one, and I would be like, ‘I’m not going to use my right hand.’ On purpose. I mean, my left hand. And I remember playing people, and as soon as the game got tight, they would go to their strengths, every time. And I would say, ‘No matter what, I’m not going to go to my strengths. I’m going to make sure, even if you cut me off, right on, I’m going to shoot with my left hand.’ And I got good at it.
That was just challenging myself. My dad always told me when I was a kid, ‘Work on it.’ I would always come in the house: ‘Dad, I can’t dribble with my left hand,’ — this is when I wa eight-years-old. He was like, ‘How much do you work on it?’ I was like, “Uh? What do you mean work on it?’ (Laughs). He was like, ‘All the best players work on it. Go outside and dribble and shoot with it.’ I was like, ‘All right.’ And then I got good at it. And so the days that I didn’t say, ‘I’m going to go with my left hand,’ instinctively I was coming in and, boom, I would use my left. And it was, ‘I’m using my left now. I’m using it more than my right.’ And then as kids, growing up, no kid at a young age can use his opposite hand. It’s rare. So, when I was playing in games, kids was like, ‘Push him left!’ And then it became my strength. I started going left all the time.
So, I’m always trying to challenge myself. Whatever I can get better at. And whatever people — I listen to comments, and if they knock me, I don’t be like, ‘Oh, forget him!’ I’m like, ‘Oh. All right. I see what he’s saying.’ Or, ‘Maybe he’s right about that. I do need to kind of work on that.’ I won’t say it out loud. But in my head, I’m like, ‘Oh. OK. Let me see if I can get that.’ Because that’s like a pride thing. Let me challenge myself. I think I can do it.
On driving into the lane and the game slowing down for him:
Yeah, I think I observe things differently. There’s games where I feel like the game is moving too fast, and I’m like, ‘Let me try to slow it down.’ I’m constantly thinking about how I can try and slow this game down. It’s not technically slow the game, it’s slow myself down. I’ve got to slow myself down. I’m shooting too fast. I’m trying to beat this guy too quick. And I think it’s just something that I’ve learned, that when I get into the paint, I think my senses go up a little bit more. Maybe I’m focusing a little bit more than if I was on the perimeter. And it’s just, yeah, things up open up. Like, if I beat a guy, it’s, ‘Oh, he’s leaning too hard right.’ And the game may look like it’s going fast. But to me, I’m just basically slowing it. I know he’s going to come in, and so it’s a quick spin. So, I don’t know what you call it. (Laughs) But I get a feel for it. It’s more of a feel thing; it’s a sense. I start to feel how a guy is guarding me. I’m starting to pick up a rhythm more and more. A guy when he’s guarding you, he has to give you something. Nobody’s perfect. And my mentality offensively is, ‘How fast can I pick up what he’s giving me, to take advantage of it.’
On how much is scouting and how much is in-game instinct in regards to finding an offensive advantage:
Some of it is just years and years of basketball. I’ve played against so many, to this point, so many good defenders, there’s not too many different ways you can guard me. So, it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s guarding me like Bruce Bowen.’ ‘He’s guarding me like Ron Artest used to.’ You know? So, that’s how it is. We’ll play the guy in Milwaukee, (Luc Richard) Mbah a Moute. I’m like, ‘Oh, he plays defense with his upper body. He’s a strong guy. I’ve got to get off his body.’ And then there’s guys a play who are like, ‘Oh, he’s quick. He doesn’t want me to touch him. So, let me feel him.’ Like a Monta Ellis: Let me get on his body. So, it’s just, we play 82 games every year; college; pick-up. I’ve played against so many different defenses it’s like, I don’t want to (brag), but I don’t think there’s a guy who can do anything different. Not to say he can’t guard me. But I don’t think there’s much he can do differently that I haven’t seen. And then a lot of it, the biggest thing is confidence. I think over the years, I’ve gained more confidence. Before, I would like, ‘Oh, yeah. He’s kind of taking me out (of my game). I don’t know what I want to do.’ Where now it’s like, you can’t. ‘Don’t let him take you out of what you’re trying to do.’ Some of it’s confidence. The best players have it. The best scorers have it. You have to it. You can have all the talent in the world. But if you don’t have that confidence, it’s going to be tough.