Brandon Roy is making his NBA comeback in Minnesota. And that is a great place for him to do it. Roy was beloved by Blazer fans for his ability to light up the scoreboard and effortlessly hit clutch shots. He is credited with the transition from the “Jail Blazers” era to the community oriented Blazers of today. It would be remiss to not recognize Roy as a legend in Blazers history. But if the Blazers are to move the organization forward and build on the small, yet talented core of young players, the past is where the Blazers need Brandon Roy to remain.
On Halloween night, the Blazers will welcome the Los Angeles Lakers to the Rose Garden for the beginning of the 2012-13 season. Portland’s starters have the talent to play competitive basketball with the Lakers and the rest of the NBA. Their bench, however, is not deep. This is where they will be exposed and many times, likely the reason they lose games.
In Minnesota, Brandon Roy will be coming off the bench. He will display the same talent for the Timberwolves fans that he did for the Blazer fans. His ability to execute in isolation, drain jumpers, and even scream grunt and moan on his patent drives to the hoop will appear the same as they did in Portland. His minutes will be in the low 20’s, an effort to preserve and squeeze whatever might be left of his degenerated knees. If preseason is any indication of how the regular season will play out, he will be effective.
There will be a night, maybe multiple nights in which Roy, like B-Roy of old, lights up the scoreboard and scores at will. Meanwhile the Blazers bench will be searching for an identity. Then the chatter will start. The sports talk radio air waves will buzz with fans angry about how Roy was allowed to leave. Pundits will say Roy got the last word.
Brandon Roy is an incredibly talented player. He has an innate ability to create space on the floor and can shoot the ball like many of the greats. He can single handedly take games over, a talent few that play the game possess. Brandon Roy, not to his fault, has a huge ego. This is a positive, not a negative, for an NBA player. It is what separates the good players from the great players. Roy was never able to equate ego into leadership.
If Brandon Roy was a member of the 2012-13 Blazers team, he would be a detriment. His presence would slow the growth of rising stars and steal minutes from Wesley Matthews, Will Barton, and Victor Claver. More importantly, he would undermine the leadership and play of LaMarcus Aldridge.
During the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, Brandon Roy was on and off the court due to injuries. In Roy’s absence in both of those seasons, it was evident that LaMarcus Aldridge was coming into his own, both as a player and as a leader. However, when Roy returned to the court, Aldridge would retreat to a subordinate role. Roy’s on court aura had an adverse effect on Aldridge.
The 2011-12 Blazers season was not one to remember. For LaMarcus Aldridge, it was his first nomination to the NBA All-Star Game. It was also the first year in which he was the true leader of the team. From the outside looking in, his leadership skills seem to be passive, or action rather than verbal. But none the less he was respected by his teammates and dependable.
The Trail Blazers of today are LaMarcus Aldridge’s team, no doubt about it. He is young, relatively healthy and on the verge of becoming a perennial All-Star. Brandon Roy on this team, despite his upside, would inhibit the growth. Roy is an NBA great trapped in a body that fails him. His passion and perseverance is admirable, maybe incredible. He is proving his body and the critics wrong. This has merit, but it would be of no use to the Blazers.
The 2012-13 Blazers need to forge their own identity, take their lumps, and move forward gaining the experience that will help them be a contender for seasons to come. LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, Meyers Leonard, and others need to become the new faces of the franchise. Toiling in the past will not allow them the riches of the future. Thanks for the memories Brandon Roy, best of luck in Minnesota, it’s time for the Blazers to move forward.