The NBA loves its stars (and so do we), but often, it’s the bit players who are just as essential in defining a team’s identity. Whether it’s a high-profile sixth man, or the guy on the end of the bench, they fit (or don’t) because of how everything else fits. As the great Lester Freamon once said, “All. The Pieces. Matter.” With that in mind, here is the first in a series of profiles looking at the best role players in the NBA.
Carl Landry knew early. The Warriors were opening their season in Phoenix on Halloween night, and with 1:04 left, Landry’s new team had the ball and a one-point lead. Landry had scored 10 of the 20 points in the final quarter, and when it came time for Mark Jackson to draw up what he hoped to be the dagger, it was Landry who’d have the chance to plunge it in.
As Jarrett Jack dribbled near the top of the key, Landry jogged toward him as if to set a screen. Rather than make contact with Jack’s man, Landry kept on moving, Marcin Gortat flashed to the middle to help on the non-existent screen, and Landry was left all alone near the right elbow. Taking the pass from Jack, Landry pulled up from 17 feet and, like that, it was 87-84 with less than a minute to go.
“I’m a bench guy,” Landry says. “You’ve got Steph on the court, who’s a potential All-Star. You’ve got David Lee, who’s an All-Star. For [Coach Jackson] to put the ball in my hands at the end of the game and trust that I can knock down that shot, right then and there I knew it was going to be a fun year.“