Ivey Wants to Bring a Defensive Presence, 'Whatever They Need'

Royal Ivey continues to find work in the NBA because he brings the intangibles.

He’s a serious worker, he builds and keeps relationships, he can play both guard positions and he plays defense. Better yet, he loves to play defense. In fact, get him on the subject of defense and his tone of voice changes. He might even start talking in metaphors.

“I’m like that fly at the picnic table,” Ivey explained in a telephone interview on Thursday. “You’re trying to fan him away and he keeps on coming back and landing on your food. I just have that kind of mentality, that I’m not going away and I’m going to be there the whole game. I’m going to be in you and it’s an ongoing process. It’s just having that mindset and never backing down to anybody. That’s what I bring to the game.”

And this is part of the reason why the Thunder coveted his services.

Ivey is a self-made player. He brings character, work ethic, professionalism and a reputation as a defender that fits the organization’s values. Ivey never had anything handed to him. He wasn’t highly recruited out of Benjamin N. Cardozo High in Queens, N.Y., and had to earn a guaranteed contract as a second-round draft pick by the Atlanta Hawks in 2004.

“It takes some guys a little time to realize that the NBA is not a rite but a privilege,” Thunder Executive Vice President/General Manager Sam Presti said. “Royal came into the league respecting that and has made his way each year with the same mentality.”

After three seasons with the Hawks, Ivey had two stints each in Milwaukee and Philadelphia before getting to choose his own destination this summer. Ivey said he felt at home during a visit to Oklahoma City.

“It felt like the right situation for me to come in and be a veteran to those younger guys and be that motivator and just be that presence,” he said. “It just felt right. It was a good feeling to be a part of a team that wants you and values what you bring to the court. That was a good feeling. When I left I was elated.”

And when Ivey returned to sign his contract he passed through downtown Oklahoma City, where he visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which he called a touching moment.

“It was deep, real deep,” Ivey said. “I just took it all in. It was deep. After we left, it was on my heart.”

With a roster full of talented young backcourt players, Ivey said he wants to set a good example both on and off the court and is willing to fulfill any role that’s asked of him. He adds depth at the guard positions that already include one of the game's top perimeter defenders in Thabo Sefolosha as well as Russell Westbrook, who is playing for USA Basketball this summer, and a pair of rookies in Eric Maynor and James Harden, both of who participated in the Orlando Pro Summer League in July.

“Whatever they need me to do,” Ivey said. “I want to bring my defensive presence and tenacity, whatever they need. I want to play the one, the two, guard the one, the two, whatever they ask me to do that’s what I want to do. I just want to bring my mental toughness and my defensive tenacity and help the team get better as a whole.”

Added Presti: “Outside of his family, Royal's number one priority is basketball. I think some of our less experienced back-court players will benefit from seeing Royal approach his craft.”

Contact Chris Silva