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Sekou Smith

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Coach Nate McMillan (left) understands the emotional pain Brandon Roy is going through.
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

McMillan feels Roy's pain, but won't change his game plan


Posted Apr 21 2011 10:08AM

TUALATIN, Ore. -- However painful it is for Brandon Roy to come off the bench and see his role reduced on a Portland Trail Blazers team he once led, it's no easier for Nate McMillan to see his one-time All-star reduced to near tears.

But the team comes first and McMillan made that clear to Roy in a conversation between coach and player Wednesday.

The Blazers face a must-win Game 3 against the Dallas Mavericks in this first-round playoff series Thursday night at the Rose Garden (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT). The Blazers need Roy to play his role, whatever role McMillan decides that should be, and help them make a mark in this series.

That doesn't mean McMillan can't see what barely eight minutes of playing time does to a player of Roy's stature. The three-time All-Star told a reporter after the Blazers' Game 2 loss that he had to fight back tears after being used so sparingly.

"As I said to Brandon, there's nobody in this state, including Brandon, that wants Brandon on the floor as much as I do," McMillan said Wednesday afternoon at the team's practice facility. "So (Game 2) was a rotation that I felt we wanted to get back to, our first unit, and I went to that rotation. Making decisions on substitutions is going to be me making those based on what's best for the team.

"I totally have respect for Brandon, a great deal of respect for Brandon and what he's done for this organization. There is no disrespect. And it's a challenge every time I call Brandon's name of the bench. That's our All-Star and we're going through a season where we are trying to figure out exactly what he can do and how he can help the team and get him through this year.

"But I know what he has done for this organization and to call Brandon Roy's name as a backup is different. So I totally understand where he is coming from."

The shock for Roy came after playing seven minutes and change in Game 2, when Rudy Fernandez and Patty Mills got off the bench and into the game before he did. That was a tough pill to swallow for a player that had become the face of this proud franchise.

Roy established himself as one of the league's elite talents only to have it all snatched away by injuries. He had surgeries on both knees this season, missing 35 games as McMillan reconstructed the team around LaMarcus Aldridge.

Being marginalized the way he has is just more than Roy can handle, as he explained to the Oregonian when that reality smacked him in the face after Game 2.

"There was a point in the first half, and I was thinking 'You better not cry,' '' Roy told the newspaper. "I mean, serious. I mean, there was a moment where I felt really sorry for myself. Then I was like, nah, you can't be sorry for yourself. I'm a grown man, but there was a moment there that I felt sorry for myself. Especially when I think I can still help.''

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little hurt, or disappointed,'' Roy said. "But the biggest thing is to keep moving, to try and keep my spirits up. But it's tough man. I just .... I just always thought I would be treated better. That was a little disappointing for me.''

Based on what McMillan said Wednesday, Roy will have to make the proper adjustment to his reduced role or endure more of those feelings. There is no guarantee that he'll see any more minutes than he saw in the last game.

When asked specifically how much Roy will play tonight, McMillan made his stance clear. "He's going to play his role, which is coming off the bench. And we'll see," he said. "There weren't any minutes promised or anything like that."

McMillan has to make sure to cater to the team's new anchor and star, Aldridge, who wasn't a focal point down the stretch in Game 1 or 2. While the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki saved his best for last -- he had 18 points in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and 14 in the fourth quarter of Game 2 -- Aldridge countered with a total of nine in the final quarter of those first two games.

If the Blazers have plans to get back into this series, it will come on the back of Aldridge, not Roy.

"We got away from LaMarcus, and we need to make sure he's the focus going down the stretch," McMillan said. "Get that ball to LaMarcus and play through him."

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and the author of NBA.com's Hang Time blog. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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