Brandon Roy is not the problem with the Portland Trailblazers this season. His balky knees have not reduced the three-time all-star to being a detriment to his team. He is still worth every penny of that huge contract that he signed over the summer, if any of the athletes who entertain us are worth the millions that they make for playing a children’s game altered and tweaked extensively to afford players, especially those deemed as “superstars”, every opportunity to succeed. Brandon Roy is the face of this team, he is the heart of this team and he is the soul of this team. His value to the team and to the city and the state cannot be measured in points and assists and shooting percentage.
When Brandon Roy came to town the Portland team was in shambles. Fluctuating between being the most tantalizing collection of talent to being the most ridiculous and dysfunctional collection of social misfits in the league, the Trailblazers had gone from being beloved statewide and respected league wide to being the laughingstock of the NBA. The Portland Jail-blazers, as they became known nationwide, under-achieved and disrespected their fans and each other’s until their fan base said enough is enough. The arena emptied and the team languished in a self-imposed perdition punctuated by ugly front office posturing and threats and even talk of the team leaving town. The team chemistry had deteriorated to the point of players throwing towels in team-mates faces during games, accosting referees on a regular basis, player tirades against coaches, players getting coaches fired, and records set in technical fouls in a season. This is the culture that Brandon Roy was asked to change.
He came in and did everything that we asked him to do. He came in and brought with him an attitude and a skill set that set the example and the standard for the players and staff around him. He adapted and perfected his game as he brought his teammates to fulfill more of their potential to keep up. He was a leader and a teammate, but more importantly he brought a feeling of camaraderie. He is a smart player who has played with limitations since high school but who knows his body and what he can and cannot do, and how to compensate for the things that he can’t. His game, by necessity, is a constantly evolving skill-set. His is not a game cavalierly changed up to suit the whims of the front office, but one that must be built around and enhanced by the people brought in around him. The Trailblazers knew this about Brandon when they drafted him.
Early on with this team Brandon had the people around him on the court that could spread the defenses out and give him room to operate. We had people who could stick the three with regularity. Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake, Jared Bayless, Rudy Fernandez (where the heck has he gone?), Nic Batum (same question, although he did show up against Dallas tonight.), Martell Webster. We had point guards who adapted to Brandon’s style of play, instead of coming in and expecting our star to cater to his style. Sorry, Andre, I think that you are a very good player, just not the right one to pair with a guy like B-Roy. If you could have accepted a sixth man role we might have had something going, but your demand to start sent the point guard that could have supplied that good counterpoint to your slow, methodical set up and lack of an outside shot.
B-Roy’s knees have been bad for a long time and he has managed it well. This last flair-up does not signal the end of his value to the team. He is an all-star, and once this team gets right and he is able to play his game again and not fight triple teams on every other shot he will be an all-star again. It is the play of the team that is robbing Roy of his ability to play at an all-star level. When the bench starts carrying a share of the load and we get a couple of long-range shooters to play alongside Roy the team will be fine. It’s still a 50 win team if we can get the whole team to step up their game to match the effort that Roy brings every night.
all-starI’m disgusted with the talk show chatter and the unfortunate vocal minority that is calling to trade Roy, claiming that his candid comments about what is wrong with the team was some kind of diatribe against the team and coaches. His observations were mostly spot-on. He is not the quickest player on the court, and when you put another slow deliberate guy next to him you are not going to have a very explosive offense, especially when that point guard can only be relied upon to shoot consistently from 15 feet or less. And it is on the front office and the coaching staff that they have put the mantel of the team on Roy’s shoulders and then refused to consider his skill-set when choosing the players to surround him with. You can’t fix a Ferrari with parts from a Porsche.
I have to believe that Brandon would not be struggling nearly as much right now if he heard words of support rather than the bitter vitriol that fills local sports talk shows lately. The hosts of these shows are awful, but it is their job to stir up a topic when there isn’t much else on the local scene to discuss, but it is unfortunate that the same people who have fawned all aver Roy when he did them the favor of an interview and did it with grace and honesty now are ripping him for that same honesty. These are the same radio hosts who will tell you that you can’t judge T.O. or Kobe or Tiger like normal people, you don’t know the pressures that they are living under. I’ll take B-Roy over any of those losers.
Unfortunately, these talk shows seem to attract that bombastic group of miscreants who value performance over character and in fact seem to revel in the support of the more selfish and self-centered characters in the sporting world and seem to resent those who can excel and thrive while maintaining their dignity and humanity. I don’t believe that these people are representative of the broader fan base but it seems that they will continue to monopolize the air time until Brandon can adjust and get back to his usual level of play.
I guess that panicking after a stretch of five or six bad games is typical of the Portland mentality. Look what happens when it snows.