Column: Sorting Through The Mixed Feelings On Brandon Roy's Wolves Tenure

Sorting Through The Mixed Feelings On Brandon Roy's Wolves Tenure

I did a 1-on-1 interview with Brandon Roy during his first day with the Timberwolves on July 31 last summer just before he was introduced to the media at Target Center. Among the things he mentioned in that interview, Roy talked about how excited he was to be back in the NBA, how much of a process it was for him to return and how great his knees felt after taking a year off from the league. At the time, we didn’t know for sure what would happen. Yes, the three-time All-Star was forced into premature retirement because of his knees, prematurely ending a brilliant career in Portland—a city that adored him. But we also understood if Roy could stay healthy, he could be an excellent asset. A guy who, even if he played 15 minutes a night, could complement go-to scorer Kevin Love as a threat in late-game situations. We now have the full story. He played just five games this season, never played a regular season minute with Love or Ricky Rubio and never made a major impact on this club. By the time the first full week of the regular season had ended, Roy was done for the year. The Wolves officially waived Roy on Friday, effectively ending his tenure. I’ve seen two schools of thought from fans on Roy’s time with the Wolves. One says it was too big of a gamble, and Roy should not have been signed because he was never going to be the same player he was with the Blazers. The other focuses more on Roy, crushed by the thought that a once elite scorer and clutch performer is likely done for good. I side with the latter. Here’s why. Let’s start with Roy himself. Before he even arrived in Minnesota, I heard all the stories about his character. One of the real good guys in the sport. And from Day 1, that was more than apparent. Roy is a genuine guy, always engaging in conversation, carrying a positive attitude and treating people with respect. Heck, the first day he was here he carried boxes of his own autographed basketballs up the stairs for one of the members of our Community Relations department. Even when he was sidelined and couldn’t practice, I never saw him act in a way that didn’t reflect those three traits. On the court, save for his knees, he still had what made him the All-Star he once was. He had the passion for the game, which drove him back in the first place. And he certainly had his shot. Even from his first workouts at LifeTime Fitness Training Center, you could see it. Working with player development coach David Adelman and guard Malcolm Lee in early September, Roy lit it up. His shot was still pure, his mechanics nearly perfect. He still knew how to score—that never left him. During Training Camp, we asked him how his body felt. If he was sitting out any time to help compensate for his comeback. He said aside from some minutes near the end, he was doing everything the rest of the team was doing. During the preseason, I was actually impressed with how he was conducting himself on the court. He wasn’t simply a one-dimensional, spot-up shooter. He dove for balls, he drove to the hoop and he had great court vision that helped move the ball around well in half court sets. But by Game 5, against Indiana, Roy was done. He left with the team 4-1 on the season and played 15 minutes in that memorable game in which Chase Budinger beat the Pacers with a layup in the final seconds. It was an abrupt end for a player who had so much to give. Now let’s look at it from the game’s perspective. As basketball fans, we gravitate toward the game because of the people and the experience. The reason why continue to watch year after year is because of how those games make us feel, and it comes down to the players themselves making the experience worthwhile. If you were there for Dr. J’s famous reverse layup against the Lakers in the 1980 Finals—or even if you’ve seen it on replay for the past three decades—it’s something you’re telling your kids or grandkids about. If you watched Michael’s Bulls live or were there for Kobe’s 81, you’ll never forget it. If you spent a decade marveling at Target Center over Kevin Garnett’s awing ability or are currently drawn here because of Rubio’s passes or Love’s unique skills, you know there are standout moments you’ll never forget. Those instances happened for Blazers’ fans with Brandon Roy, and they were brilliant moments that were cut short because of injury. It’s a shame. It all comes back to the fact that health is an uncontrollable force in sports, and it comes down to luck. We’re lucky that Michael never got hurt, or that LeBron and Durant have been healthy during their careers. It’s unfortunate Kobe suffered injury this season, but he’s been incredibly healthy throughout his career and we’ve benefited from that fact. Love or hate these guys, we marvel at their skill and have lasting memories because of it. I don’t know what the future holds for Roy. I do know he and the Wolves hoped this comeback would work out and could help this franchise reach the postseason. That didn’t happen. From the Wolves’ perspective, they’ll move on and try to find that shooting guard they hoped Roy would be. For Roy, it’s not that simple. He’s likely done for good, and if so it’s the end of a potentially great career cut short under unfair circumstances. We’re all losing because of this. There’s one last thing that stuck out to me about Roy’s 1-on-1 in July. He said he was excited to be here in Minnesota, to get to know the people here and to let the people get to know him. For what it’s worth, he did accomplish that part. We got to know him for being the same genuine guy we heard about during his time in Portland. If anything, that’s the silver lining. A lot of people tweeted on Friday how Roy is a class act, and it’s true. Winning and losing aside, Brandon Roy has my respect, and I think that holds true for anyone who got to know him while he was here. I wish him the best moving forward. I just wish that included a little more time on the court.