Posted Dec 22 2010 10:23AM
Is the career of Brandon Roy at risk? Could the All-Star's fervent desire to play potentially shorten his career?
Roy already isn't playing Christmas night for the Portland Trail Blazers. He's out for at least another week, with no definitive timetable for his return.
The grinder and competitor in Roy wants to get back. There's no doubt Portland needs its gimpy-kneed leader on the floor as much as possible for its best shot at reaching the playoffs. But at what cost?
Chris Webber doesn't believe Roy should return this season. Webber was plagued by knee injuries late in his career and sees some of the same disturbing physical trends in Roy. Webber had to adjust the way he ran after knee surgery and has noticed a change in Roy's gait. Weighing the state of the Blazers and Roy's troublesome left knee, Webber said it's best to just shut Roy down.
"I don't think Portland has the slightest of chances to win the championship," said Webber, a former All-Star and current analyst for NBA TV. "I wish he would take the rest of the year off and get healthy. I think it would be a better investment for the Portland team because there are no guarantees. If you're not going to win this year, then what are you guaranteeing?
"You're guaranteeing that you're still damaging his hurt areas. That's all you're guaranteeing."
Such a scenario hasn't been discussed publicly by Blazers coach Nate McMillan, first-year general manager Rich Cho or team president Larry Miller. The prospect of losing Roy, especially in the wake of another season-ending surgery to Greg Oden, could be viewed in the Pacific Northwest as throwing in the towel.
But having Roy return too soon may lead to more problems. While the Blazers would never intentionally put their franchise player at risk, Roy's will to do whatever it takes clouds the issue.
He rushed back during the playoffs last season, playing only eight days after surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee. Rehab for such an injury is typically 4-6 weeks. Roy, 26, was cleared medically but also admitted that he didn't fully consider the potential long-term impact of coming back so quickly.
"I've always worried about tonight's game," he said. "People always say, 'Think about your career,' but I wasn't able to be successful doing it that way. I've always been successful by working hard every day.
"I haven't thought that far ahead. Maybe that's something I'll think about when I'm a little older, but right now my goal is continue to try and win now. We're going to continue to work to get there."
The Blazers are plugging along. Portland is eighth in the Western Conference at 15-14 -- not exactly the rousing start the organization expected. Roy hasn't been the sole reason for the team's uneven performance, but he's the most visible.
"We need everybody to step up and give a little more," McMillan said. "Brandon is going to give all that he has and we need everybody else to do the same. It's not just one guy, he's a big part of what we need, but we need other guys to play well."
After averaging at least 21.5 points the previous two seasons, Roy is down to a career-low 16.6. He appears to lack the explosiveness that had Roy among the league's premier shooting guards. He hasn't attacked the basket as much and is settling for jumpers more than ever while shooting less than 40 percent for the first time in his career.
Roy has experienced swelling in his left knee and has had it drained several times already. He is dealing with chronic pain and reportedly has little cartilage left in either knee.
Kevin McHale said those issues were a red flag going into the 2006 Draft. Then the Minnesota general manager, McHale picked Roy sixth overall only to trade him for Randy Foye. While that trade backfired on the Timberwolves, the medical reports on Roy at the time were enough to scare McHale off.
"I remember very vividly sitting in a room with a bunch of doctors and they were saying, 'Well, I don't know, he could have problems in a couple of years. It could be five, it could be 10, it could be never, but the range that he has, he's going to have problems with his knee,'" said McHale, now an NBA TV analyst. "This was before he played one NBA game."
McHale added that the prospects of trading Roy, with four years and nearly $70 million left on his contract, are doubly difficult since his left knee isn't insured. McHale said teams would balk at dealing for Roy because, "If this guy goes down we still have to pay him, but it's right out of our pocket. There's no insurance money."
Maybe all that Roy needs is a little time to rest. Perhaps he's just building up his strength, as he's suggested, and will improve once he's back. Same goes for the Blazers.
"If we can stay healthy," Roy said, "we give ourselves a good chance."
Webber would rather it work out in Portland, even if Roy doesn't play again this season and if he never gets back to the level he was once.
"He can still be that leader in the locker room," Webber said. "You don't have to be the best player on the team to be the leader in the locker room. You don't have to be the best player to continue the tradition of what you and coach McMillan and everyone else has started.
"Coach needs another general in that locker room, so I think he'll always be very valuable to that team, but if I were him I would ... just try to be healthy. I look at this as my last shot. 'Can I get healthy? Can I ever be healthy again?' Only months of rehab can do that."
Not one week.
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