The King of Rock
Now in Sacramento, Carl Landry’s best is still to come.
by Wendell Maxey
The smile on Carl Landry’s face said it all.
“You can’t hold me,” Landry warned Sacramento Kings assistant coach Truck Robinson, as the two battled in the post during pregame warm-ups at the Rose Garden.
It was about an hour before tip-off against the Portland Trail Blazers and the newest member of the Kings was holding court on the one of the best power forwards in the NBA in the late 70s and early 80s. Truck can still roll and he wasn’t afraid to remind the kid either. Landry replied with the truth.
“They want me to be an All-Star,” Landry barked at Robinson as the two joked and jawed.
“I’ll get that call.”
Back in February with the NBA trade deadline looming, Landry received a different kind of call – four of them to be exact from his agent, Buddy Baker.
The Houston Rockets had just finished a game in Milwaukee – Landry’s hometown – against the Bucks and when the team plane finally touched down in Houston two and a half hours later, the 6-9 forward saw four “missed calls” from Baker on his cell phone. That’s when Landry knew something was up.
That’s when the smile left his face.
“The trade deadline was the next day at 3 o’clock and we all knew the Rockets were trying to trade Tracy (McGrady) and that someone else was going to be involved in the trade, but we didn’t know who it was going to be,” Landry remembered.
“I didn’t hear my name at all, especially in a trade.”
Now three weeks after Sacramento acquired Landry in a three-team deal that sent McGrady to New York and Kevin Martin to the Rockets, the ear to ear grin has returned. Carl has officially moved on from Houston, despite knowing how he went from a second-round hopeful out of Purdue back in 2007 to one of the League’s most efficient — albeit still underappreciated — forwards in the game.
“I believe everything happens for a reason. My opportunity is here. My opportunity came in Houston because Yao (Ming) went down. I went from being nothing to a name in the NBA, and they (Houston) gave me a chance and a second chance. But it’s time to move on. My dream was never to play for the (Charlotte) Bobcats (who pursued Landry last offseason) or the Rockets or anything like that. My dream was to play in the NBA. And I knew when I got the chance to play here in Sacramento that it was going to be great.”
After the adjustment to a new city and new system, Landry is picking up where he left off with the Rockets. He played two games with the Kings even before getting a chance to practice with the team, but has scored 20 or more points in three of the last five games and has grabbed eight or more rebounds in five of last seven games.
One of those games was against his former teammates. Landry went for 22 points and 10 rebounds last week at Houston. Still, there was some uneasiness.
“To go back and play against those guys was weird. It was like going up against your brothers. It’s part of the game.”
Already in this short time, the Kings have come to love Landry’s game.
“Carl pretty much gives everybody fits. He knows his way around the low post and is explosive. He’s already made a name for himself in this league only in his third season. He’s competitive and has a real skilled offensive package. Carl’s our best low post player, no question about that,” said head coach Paul Westphal.
Landry now gives Sacramento a legit low post presence on a team so perimeter oriented, a facet the Kings have seriously lacked in years past.
“That’s a real postman we can get the ball to – not taking anything away from JT (Jason Thompson) or Spencer (Hawes) – but he’s a banger,” Tyreke Evans began. “He got his teeth knocked out and shot in the leg and still came back. Anytime you have a guy like that, you’re going to take advantage of it.”
While Landry continues to put up numbers (16.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 63 games between Houston and Sacramento), he’s looking forward to playing with and off Evans, a guy Carl believes will be NBA Rookie of the Year.
“It’s a privilege to play with him – a big guard who go down low and score. I don’t only think I’m going to make him better with my experience, but he’s going to make me better,” Landry admitted.
“The opportunity is great here and I get the chance to start and showcase my talents to the League a little bit more.”
Sitting at his locker with an ice pack on each knee, Landry fielded post-game questions with reporters about another night at the office – this time finishing with 17 points and 8 rebounds in a loss to Portland.
As Carl reminisced about where he’s been this season and where he’d like to go in this League in the coming years, Truck Robinson sat on a black folding chair to Landry’s left tipping back a bag of popcorn into his mouth.
Truck looked on and listened in, but he’s heard the kid loud and clear before.
“Everyone in this locker room hopes one day to be an All-Star, and I think I’m growing closer and closer each year,” Landry said with a smile.
“Hopefully in the near future I’ll be there.”
Wendell Maxey is a freelance writer and has covered the NBA for the past six years from New York to Portland. A contributing writer for USA TODAY, Wendell can be read more at www.beyondthebeat.net.