By Vince Thomas, for NBA.com
Posted Aug 11 2009 1:08PM
You want a nice little laugh? Dig this: Brandon Roy's $82 million contract is only the second-largest deal in Blazers history, behind guess whose? Yep, Zach Randolph's $84 million deal he signed in 2004.
True, B-Roy's deal is more lucrative on a per-year basis, but you have to admit that piece of trivia is still funny.
Want another factoid? Okay, this one is less laughable and more, say, telling: For Roy's player-option fifth year in the 2014-2015 season, he's expected to earn about $20.1 million, which just clips the $19.7 million Scottie Pippen earned as a 37-year-old, averaging about 11-4-4 for the embryonic "Jail Blazers." Roy will be a "still in or near his prime" 31 that final year and, very realistically, maybe a couple rings deep.
Yeah, I said it: Roy and the Blazers might cop a couple rings within the next six seasons. Portland has that much potential and, perhaps more importantly, Roy is that good.
If you're not a hoops junkie with NBA League Pass or you're an early-riser that can't stay up for West Coast games, you might not know just how good this young kat is. Even his Second Team All-NBA and precocious debut in the Playoffs -- where he averaged 27 points, five rebounds and three assists -- was overshadowed by a loss to the Rockets in the first round.
Don't get it twisted, though. There's a reason why Roy and the Blazers played tug-o'-war over that fifth year of the contract extension. Roy wanted options and the Blazers wanted him locked in as long as possible. Other than Kobe and D-Wade, there is no better two-guard in the league. In fact, other than Kobe, D-Wade, LeBron and Chris Paul, I don't think there's a better, more valuable perimeter player -- period. Carmelo Anthony might be the best scorer in the league, but there are intangibles that Roy offers -- like an even-keeled leadership -- that arguably makes Roy more of a Real Franchise Player than 'Melo.
Introducing Roy as Portland's cornerstone, general manager Kevin Pritchard intimated that he noticed Roy's broad shoulders from the get-go.
"I remember driving back from that workout thinking this is our guy, and he's going to be a pillar of our franchise," said Pritchard, according to AP. "Brandon is a leader. He's a guy who cares about his teammates."
And this is why, no matter how understated his game is, no matter how reserved he can seem as a personality, Roy is worth every cent of that max contract he just signed. At his press conference, Roy said he's "very focused and determined to bring a championship to the Rose City." That's not just a platitude, coming from Roy.
Almost all athletes, on a fundamental level, "want" to win a championship. Roy is from a different ilk, one of those players that seems to be "driven" to win a championship.
The comical thing about the way Roy somehow floats under the radar is that he's such a killer in the clutch. You'd think it'd be hard to ignore a dude that routinely rips opponents' hearts out, all the while beating on his chest. Roy, almost too many times to count, has gone into Tasmanian Devil-mode in late game situations and carried the Blazers. He ranked seventh in 82games.com's "clutch stats" category last season, which included four game-winners.
He's one of the league's few assassins and it's all motivated by this thirst to win. Watching Roy's press conference, I got the feeling he was starving for a championship. Starving. You pay players like that as much as the salary cap allows.
"I always go back to, man, there's still something missing. And it's that championship," he said. "It's holding that trophy at the end of the season, knowing that we were the best team. Again this contract is great. I'm happy for my family and it's going to make things a lot easier. But at the same time, my goal when I came to this organization was to help win a championship. And not just one. But we have to start with one. So I'm excited."
"Not just one." He said that. That's a man on a mission. Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith and Luol Deng signed big contracts last summer. None, however, for the max. This might be conjecture, but I don't think those dudes are wired like Roy. B-Roy looks, sounds and plays like a young dude on a march to greatness. That mindset and personality-type can be invaluable to a franchise.
Now his focus turns to next season, with Roy's Blazers on the cusp. There are plenty of wholly plausible scenarios that could place Portland in the Western Conference finals, battling for a shot at the trophy. Portland is two-deep (sometimes three-deep) at practically every position. Not to mention most of the players -- and this is the scary part -- are at stages of their careers where their games leap to new levels.
LaMarcus Aldridge (also looking for an extension), Greg Oden, Martell Webster and Rudy Fernandez are all still players where their potential is their commodity. This could be a team that goes from last season's 54 wins and first-round exit to a 60-win contender. And they're really dangerous now that Andre Miller is on board to help relieve Roy of some of his leadership and facilitating duties.
Although they've been on the precipice recently with Drexler's Blazers and that crazy-talented squad earlier this decade, it's still been over 30 years since Portland has won a title.
Roy, unlike his peers and fortunately for Portland, isn't thinking about going anywhere else to win his ring.
"Portland is where I want to be," he said. "I don't know about some of the other superstars; they have ideas about other places. But I couldn't imagine being anywhere but here in Portland."
Pritchard, owner Paul Allen and Portland fans have to be in a gleeful haze right about now. Trust me, this kat is a keeper.
Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. His "From The Floor" column appears weekly on NBA.com. Vince invites you to email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/VinceCAThomas.
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