Four years ought not to be a lifetime, but it is in the NBA. In 2008-09, Shaquille O’Neal led the league in field-goal percentage during his farewell tour with Phoenix, Indiana’s Troy Murphy was second in the league in rebounding per game, and L.A.’s Pau Gasol had the league’s best offensive rating. If those are easy to laugh at in a sense of how far the NBA has changed, one event I’m reminiscing about today is tinged with a little more sadness mixed in. On this day four years ago, Brandon Roy dropped his career-high 52-point game against Phoenix. It was one of the most underrated 50-point games of the last 10 seasons.
There have been 74 50-point games in the last 10 seasons, so so what, right? Well, only seven of those performances has included zero turnovers, and before Roy’s Dec. 18, 2008 game, no one had gone 50-and-0 since Allen Iverson on Dec. 23, 2005 (Incredibly, four of them came in the 2003 calendar year alone, with Kobe Bryant and Allan Houston accomplishing it four days apart in February). Roy’s game, like the six before it, was a rare measure of playing full-throttle while coloring between all the lines — a nearly perfect example of total control. Roy also added six assists and five boards on 52 percent shooting.
At least for me, it’s a little hard to watch the video. While Shaq and Murphy were never expected to keep up their 2008-09 seasons, and Gasol’s decline has been as much mental as physical, Roy’s departure from his 08-09 form was completely out of his hands — because it was completely in his knees. This game was supposed to be another launching point, not the apex of his career. And a little sadness too in that, even though it feels like yesterday, it really did come four whole years ago; just look at who followed Roy as the Trail Blazers’ next-highest scorers: Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw.
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