The Fall of Brandon Roy
Are his days as a star over?
by Rudy Raya
We have always glorified those who play through pain and peril on their way to victory — fighting through all injuries and obstacles, not allowing anything to get into the way of that elusive ‘W.’ But if there is anything that we have learned over the past year from basketball, and really all sports, it is that there is a thin line between being courageous and being crazy.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ star player has flirted with this line as of late and has not only jeopardized his future, but that of his franchise in the name of heroism. This isn’t a eulogy for his career or anything like that, but more like one drawn-out question to the tune of, “Just what the hell is going on with Brandon Roy?”
When reports came out last month that Brandon Roy’s time as a franchise player was over, it was all pretty stunning. What seemed at first like a meaningless mid-season impairment, turned out to be a lot worse than originally thought. Roy had reinjured his already demolished knee, apparently robbing him of all the flash and finesse that made him so special. For a player like Roy, saying that he will never be a superstar again is worse than saying that he will never play again. Between the awards, game-winning shots and overall leadership, Roy has become the heart of the Portland, pumping life into a franchise that was lacking any sort of pulse before his arrival.
Don’t get the wrong idea, Brandon Roy came into League as damaged goods. Injuries weren’t anything new to Roy as they had hampered him throughout college. But, with the grueling NBA pace, they began to become more prevalent. Each year it seemed to be something different — a new injury to cut out a chunk of his season. Regardless, Roy captured numerous accolades on his way toward making a name for himself in the League.
Though they were reoccurring throughout his young career, never had it seemed like a serious situation until late last season. Roy had torn his meniscus and though it required arthroscopic knee surgery, he was persistent in trying to make it back in time for the Playoffs. Roy underwent the procedure, and literally days later, he returned to action. The story was unbelievable and Roy did everything possible to make it back in time short of playing the first quarter bare ass in a hospital gown. Regardless, his return had the Rose Garden roaring. Inspired by his comeback, the Trail Blazers took it to the Phoenix Suns to even the series. By the way he was moving, it was obvious that something was wrong, but Roy played beyond his limits, chipping in where he could.
But, in the coming games, Roy was simply outplayed. His presence in the offense became more a nuisance than anything else. As the young Suns ran up and down the court, the Blazers practically had to wait at half court for Roy to Fred Sanford his way up the court. Being no match for the speedy Suns, Phoenix closed the series out in six games and advanced to the next round. There is no doubt that Roy probably did more damage than help to his circumstances by returning so soon, but that decision was made a long time ago, and now they are paying the price.
The injury isn’t the confusing part of this whole thing however, the real puzzling piece of the story is how Roy continues to play, and at a high level. Some nights are better than others, and though his stat line has dipped in every major category, still with strong season averages, Roy continues to be a factor. Whether he has been able to channel his inner Dejuan Blair and disregard the absence of anything between his femur and tibia, or if he is actually playing through excruciating pain, Roy has found a way to contribute. In recent reports, Roy has become all too tired with all the circumstances and just wants to play. It’s charming and all, but is it really in Portland’s best interest to let him keep playing?
Roy’s game has been affected significantly and his mobility has taken the biggest hit, even in the most trivial of movements. For the most part, he is stagnant on both sides of the ball. Roy’s role on the team has become that of a decoy and, on most possessions, a spot up shooter. When Roy is on the court, the team looks sloppy and slow. Lacking the ability to move around and create shots, the once-great player simply gallops around the court, less resembling the prized pony he used to be and more like one that’s ready to be put out to pasture or ground into a bottle of glue.
While Roy’s injury would seem to be Rudy Fernandez’s wet dream come true, the player who has benefited most from his newfound playing time is the former Utah Jazz late-season standout, Wesley Matthews. Matthews is only two years younger than Roy, but the difference when he is on the court is like night and day.
Hungry as a second year player should be and with a three-point shot that’s wetter than Garnett’s goatee, Matthews has elevated his game from a role player to a key contributor for the Blazers. Whether this off-season acquisition was a preemptive substitute for Roy or just a stroke of good fortune for a team that has nothing but bad luck, the move has helped soften the blow that injuries have dealt them. LaMarcus Aldridge has also emerged as not only a solid big man, but a focal point of the offense, putting the Blazers in a great position going forward, with or without Roy.
One of the saddest aspects of the story is that Roy already knows all of this. If his seesaw battle with Andre Miller for possession of the ball wasn’t enough, with his current situation, all signs are pointing toward a team that is ready part ways with him. Roy is obviously fed up with all the publicity his injuries have been receiving, but with the amount of money that Portland shoveled out for Roy’s extension last year, their investment is looking quite ill-advised now.
There really is no “wait and see” with him at this point as there absolutely is nothing left to operate on. With the entire Blazer organization ready to ride Roy ’til his wheels fall off, how it will work out remains to be seen. But chances are that Roy’s best days are far behind him.