During the off-season Phoenix Suns power forward Rodney Rogers
often can be found in his hometown of Durham, N.C., behind the
wheel of a five-axle dump truck, talking on his CB radio and
hauling 20 tons of sand, dirt or asphalt. "A lot of people ask
me, 'Why in the heck are you out here driving a truck?'" says
Rogers, who two years ago started his own business, RRR
Trucking, Inc. "I tell them, 'Hey, there's life after
basketball, and I've never been afraid of hard work.'"
This season Rogers, a seventh-year pro out of Wake Forest, is
trying to haul his NBA career out of the pits, and through
Sunday it had been a smooth ride. Rogers, who bolted the
down-in-the-dumps Los Angeles Clippers to sign a three-year,
$6.6 million contract with Phoenix as a free agent last August,
was averaging 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, while adding
much-needed interior toughness off the bench. Coming off the
bench against Cleveland on Jan. 22, he had 16 points and six
rebounds in 30 minutes in a 101-88 victory.
That kind of production is a far cry from last season's. After
the lockout ended, Rogers reported out of shape, feuded with
Clippers management over the team's unwillingness to sign him to
a new contract and wound up averaging only 7.4 points and 3.8
rebounds, his worst numbers since his rookie year. Instead of
battling like former Suns forward Truck Robinson, he sputtered
along like Bucks bench warmer Robert (Tractor) Traylor. "It was
terrible," Rogers says. "It's a whole different atmosphere here
in Phoenix. I'm having fun again."
That's the way it was supposed to be all along for Rogers, a
6'7" 255-pound lefty with an uncommonly soft shooting touch for
a guy built like a Mack truck. After two promising seasons in
Denver, which had selected him in the first round of the '93
draft (No. 9 overall), he was traded to the Clippers on draft
day '95 in a four-player deal that sent Antonio McDyess to the
Nuggets. Although he increased his scoring and rebounding
averages in each of his first three seasons in L.A., many NBA
fans still didn't know him from Roy Rogers, as the Clippers
bounced around the bottom of the standings each season.
He signed with Phoenix and began working out daily with a
personal trainer. He also reminded himself of what real hard
work was like, pulling a regular shift at his trucking business.
"Mostly we haul sand, rock, dirt and asphalt for construction
projects," says Rogers, who owns seven trucks and employs six
drivers. "Some days I'll get up at 2:30 in the morning to make
sure I get to the sand pit before it opens at 4."
For now Rogers wants to help haul the Suns into the playoffs. As
he knows from his four years with the Clippers, losing is harder
work than driving a truck.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT MOTA/NBA PHOTOS DIRTY WORK Truck driver Rogers is carrying his share of the load.