Brian Roberts’ goal: build on rookie success
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Although Brian Roberts was an old-for-a-rookie 26 years of age when he made his NBA debut last October with New Orleans, he was still a rookie. After thriving in Germany’s professional league for the previous three years, Roberts found himself playing in 20,000-seat arenas, on the biggest stage in basketball. It took him some time to adjust.
“I was kind of like a deer in headlights last year,” Roberts said of his early inconsistency. “I was thrown into a position that I was blessed to be in, but I feel like now, even in summer league, I’m starting to understand more about how to play and get guys in the right positions as a point guard.”
The biggest challenge for first-year NBA players is often from a mental standpoint. Roberts has several of the necessary tools to be a successful point guard in the league: above-average quickness, an accurate perimeter shot and crafty ball-handling skill. As 2012-13 progressed, he seemed to become increasingly comfortable. After his playing time fluctuated prior to the All-Star break, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder closed the season by averaging 11.1 points and 5.4 assists over his final dozen games. He shot a sizzling 48.5 percent from three-point range.
“He gained a lot of confidence and really started to play (relaxed),” said Pelicans assistant Fred Vinson, a former NBA guard who is Roberts’ player development coach. “Before that, he was a little tentative, a little afraid to make mistakes. I told him, ‘Hey, you’ve got to play your game. Mistakes are part of the game. Every player makes them.’ I knew he could take that and carry it onto the floor with him.”
The Toledo native was primarily a high-scoring, off-the-ball guard in Germany, but recognized that it was important for him to be more vocal in his new NBA role of second-unit point guard.
“I feel like I’m more of a voice out on the floor now, as opposed to last year where I was kind of quiet and observing how things work in the NBA,” Roberts said. “That’s one thing I want to work on this summer, being more of a vocal leader and getting guys in their proper spots. I’m understanding that guys will listen to me, because I have that year of experience now. I just want to be a commanding force on the court and lead guys.”
“He always had a quiet confidence about him,” Vinson said. “But the NBA is a different game. The players are bigger, stronger and faster than in Europe, and more talented overall. He had to get used to playing against that kind of size and physicality of NBA players.”
After establishing himself as a bona-fide NBA player himself last season, Roberts said his objective now is to further cement that status.
“It’s good to have a year under your belt, but at the same time, you don’t want to just get here and that’s it,” Roberts said. “Now you want to stay here. That’s the mind-set I have. Last year I was just trying to prove myself and get in the NBA. Now that I’ve gotten in and been a little bit successful, I want to make sure I stay.”