“Royal?” The question pops into Hakim Warrick’s head at times like these. Like when he gets a lead pass on the break, or when he sneaks through a gap to palm one of those hovering offensive boards that just begs for a putback. Or when he finds himself on the elbow, guarded half-heartedly by some cat who’s paying more attention to the screen he might have to slip than to the man right in front of him. That man is Hakim, 6-9 and long-limbed and springy. And he’s looking for Royal.
He found him a couple years ago, as you may remember. Syracuse v. Texas, Final Four. Carmelo carried ’Cuse to the ’chip, but Hakim provided the exclamation points. There was the title-clinching block against Kansas in the final, and, two nights earlier, there was Royal. This was Royal Ivey, then the Longhorns’ lockdown wing and now a solid role player on the Atlanta Hawks. But in this case, he was a victim. Either you remember the photo, or you picked up this magazine by mistake.
Hakim has been looking for Royal ever since. What he’s found is a lot of other guys dumb or unlucky enough to be in the paint when he has the ball. Here, against Washington in the preseason, the entire Wizards front line made that mistake. “Royal?” he might’ve asked upon landing, looking around for his cold-blooded inspiration. No, not tonight. These guys will have to do.