What are the concerns with Brandon Roy?

Zach Harper —  August 3, 2012 — 9 Comments

35 minutes per game, huh?

Brandon Roy mentioned his goal was to become a 35-minute per game player and Twitter seemingly exploded with incredulity. Personally, I didn’t get what the reaction was because it seemed like he was pretty clear in how he shaded the situation:

“I think, even before I had any knee problems in the NBA, me and coach would always sit down and talk about minutes. It’s a long season and you want guys to be fresher down the stretch. I’m sure it’s something that me and coach will talk about. My goal is, yeah, I would still love to be around that 35 minute mark. Really, whatever the team needs. I don’t want those situations where coach has to say, ‘We’re in a tough game but you’re at your minute limit.’ That was something I had to deal with in my last season in Portland. That was really hard. Physically I feel good. I want to play as much as possible but at the same time be smart because it’s a long season and we want to be at our best down the stretch.”

Sometimes people hear numbers given as goals and latch onto those numbers. We’ve become less about comprehending the context of what someone says and would much rather misquote them. Maybe it all stemmed from Charles Barkley being misquoted in his autobiography, maybe it’s the product of an ever deteriorating education system in this country, or maybe people were always like this and it’s just more prevalent now because we have much more communication on a global scale. Whatever the reasoning is, we often freak out over things out of context. 

(It’s kind of like when LeBron James said, “not four, not five, not six, not seven…” and everybody freaked out about him saying that. People ran with the idea that LeBron James just guaranteed eight championships or better for the Miami Heat organization, when really he was just responding to a leading question about whether or not LeBron James came to Miami to win one championship or more than one championship.)

Brandon Roy said his goal is that he would love to be a 35-minute per game player again. Knowing what we know about his knee history, that seems like pie-in-the-sky level thinking. In fact, that IS pie-in-the-sky level thinking. To think Brandon Roy is going to come back to the NBA after “retiring” and become close to the player he was at his far-too-soon peak would be irrational and irresponsible as a fan/pundit/analyst. But to freak out over that being his personal goal?

There is nothing wrong with him having that be his goal. Hell, if he didn’t want to become that again, why would he even come back? Having a goal or judging a player’s ceiling doesn’t mean they will hit said goal or said ceiling. In fact, most people have goals coming into the NBA that they never come close to reaching. I’m guessing there are literally hundreds of players in the league that have had the goal of becoming one of the best players in the world. I’m talking Top-10 player. They’ve probably had a similar goal almost all of their lives. There are guys who will never make the NBA that have the goal of making the NBA.

Does it mean we should scoff at them for having those goals? Yes and no.

If having those goals continue to drive these athletes to trying to become what they want to become, I think that’s fantastic. If never making these goals a reality turns them into a malcontent that is bad for locker room chemistry in their respective parts of the basketball world, then we have a problem.

There are two concerns with Brandon Roy coming to the Timberwolves:

1) Can his knees hold up?
2) Can he find a comfortable role within this team’s dynamic?

First, let’s deal with the knee issue. We have no idea what shape his knees are in. Blazers fans don’t know, Wolves fans don’t know, and really nobody is going to know until he starts going through the grind of the season. As we’ve learned over the last year or so, the Blazers seem to have a fairly incompetent medical team when it comes to assessing rehabilitation of knee injuries. Take this for what it’s worth but I think there is probably some truth in the middle from what this guy says and what the Blazers’ medical staff will tell you. After reading articles like that one I just linked to and things like this post from Ben Golliver at Blazers Edge or this Greg Oden post by Mark Titus at Grantland, it wouldn’t really shock me if the Blazers’ staff thought a meniscus was some type of Frisbee Golf apparatus.

But let’s say the Blazers were right about Roy’s knees and he really is playing bone-on-bone whenever he’s trying to cut, drive, or operate any kind of basketball movement. That sounds like it could be a pretty big problem. However, what if this procedure he had done really makes everything manageable for him? What if they’ve managed to slightly repair Roy’s knees to give him enough cushioning to get through a season? What if he’s able to give the Wolves 25 minutes per game for 60+ games? What if he’s completely healed and the Wolves get 85% of what the old Brandon Roy was?

What if, what if, what if?

That’s the thing. Until we know exactly how good or bad his knees are during the grind of an 82-game schedule, everything is just arm-chair diagnosis by a lot of people trusting one training staff over another training staff for whatever reasons best serve their expectations for what Brandon Roy will be able to do in a Wolves uniform. There is a great concern that Roy won’t be okay but that doesn’t mean he will or won’t be. I, personally, feel more comfortable having no expectations for him, no matter what he says about what his goals are. His goals are his goals. For his sake and the sake of the Wolves, I hope he reaches them, but at the same time, I don’t feel worrying about his goals/words serve any real purpose for my expectations for the Wolves next season.

Let’s handle the second concern. Can Brandon Roy fit into the Wolves, even if he doesn’t realize his goals?

Brandon Roy can be a malcontent when he doesn’t get his way. He wasn’t happy with how he was used by Nate McMillan in Portland when his knees started going bad. If Rick Adelman doesn’t just give Roy the ball, let him dribble the ball to death and then force a shot multiple times during a game, is Roy going to freak out and become a problem in the locker room? Is Roy going to be able to handle Adelman’s decision to play him no more than half the game if he’s worried about Roy’s knees holding up?

To assume Roy is going to act the same way in Minnesota as he did in Portland seems peculiar to me. Roy shouldn’t have any pressure here in Minnesota. In Portland, he was the franchise guy for the Blazers in their renaissance after the Jail Blazers era. When he signed a big deal and then subsequently went down with the knee problems, all of the pressure of that organization came down on him. This was supposed to be his team now and he wasn’t able to perform the duties that come with that. Luckily for the Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge emerged as their franchise guy. But that doesn’t mean Roy knew how to handle that pressure, even after Aldridge stepped up his game.

With the Wolves, he’s not going to be in a similar situation at all. At best, Brandon Roy is the third superstar on the team, and that’s if by some miraculous happening, he becomes close to the player he was when he made consecutive All-NBA teams. Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are THE guys here for the time being. Roy will never feel like he has to carry this franchise because that’s Love’s role. He’s not going to have to feel pressure to come back to form from his knee injury because that’s the boat Ricky is rowing right now.

Roy just has to come in and be productive most nights he plays. I don’t think many fans are truly expecting greatness from him. In fact after our recent history with wing players, any positive production will seem like icing on the cake. Roy will also be dealing with a coach that rarely has issues with his players. Adelman is almost the perfect coach to handle Roy’s situation because he’s the type of coach that seems to get through to most players, whether they’re healthy or not. He knows how to manage injuries and he knows how to manage a rotation if it’s filled with guys that can actually play.

If Roy has a problem with his role, I don’t think Adelman will have an issue explaining it to him and getting him to buy into the concept. This is kind of what Adelman has been doing for decades now. It doesn’t mean everything will work out, but if a guy is meant to play here and be a part of the team then Rick will find a way to make it work. If not, he’ll find a way to phase that player out (see: Beas, Super Cool).

Roy shouldn’t be held to the standards and practices that went on with him in Portland because this isn’t Portland (even if John Hollinger wants to pretend it’s trying to become Portland! COUNT THE BIKE LANEZ, JOHN!). This isn’t the same role, contract, coaching staff, medical staff, or group of guys around him.

He gets a rebirth into the league now. If he hits his goal, that’s going to be a hell of a steal for the Wolves this offseason. If he doesn’t hit that goal, it’s unlikely that most people will give it a second thought.

Here’s to his health, for both reasons of basketball and reasons of his quality of living.

Zach Harper

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9 responses to What are the concerns with Brandon Roy?

  1. I think people are forgetting how much the surgery he had helped Kobe when he had it. Its far fetched, but if Roy can be 70-80% of the player he once was he would still be a borderline all star maybe more with a good team and a PG like rubio. Remember Roy handled the ball because portland had no PG.

  2. pagingstanleyroberts August 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Good thing you didn’t read the article over at Canis Hoopus entitled “Brandon Roy: A Tale of Redemption or A Tale of Tragedy?” Anyone who thinks a 29-year-old former All-Star’s possible inability to come back is a tragedy, even in a basketball sense, is overestimating the importance of sports. Roy had a great 4 years when there were serious questions about his knees, and those years will allow him to make over $100 million in his career. As long as nothing happens that threatens his life after basketball, anything he achieves from this point on is icing on the cake.

    Also, FWIW, Andre Miller isn’t Ricky Rubio. Miller needs the ball in his hands constantly, while Rubio played with several ball stoppers last year and was also often paired with another PG. While it’s a legitimate concern regarding whether Roy can effective when he needs to move without the ball more, they were such a PnR and dribble-drive heavy team that at least they have a default setting that’d seem to work with Roy.

  3. PSR, you make a fantastic point about the PnR aspect of it. Wolves talked about Chase Budinger’s ability to run a PnR during his press conference, so I’d imagine they’d love to get Roy going heavily in those kind of plays. Doubt we see a lot of Beasley-type ball stoppages in which everyone clears out.

    Granted this was back when he was fairly healthy, but Brandon Roy was 33rd in the NBA, according to mySynergy Sports, in PnR ball-handling points per possession back in 2009-10. He turned the ball over 12.7% of those plays so it wasn’t great, but he ran a lot of them and scored an incredible 0.92 PPP in PnRs. In 2010-11 when his knees were dying, he was still ranked really high (110th) but that production fell dramatically to 0.77 PPP. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely not the elite level he was before.

  4. Mark, only thing I’d caution about that kind of thinking is Kobe has knee cartilage that helps the surgery be a great success. Roy is allegedly bone-on-bone so it wouldn’t help the cartilage like it’s designed to do. That doesn’t mean the procedure can’t help Roy at all, but I don’t know that it’s THAT comparable to Kobe’s situation.

  5. Is there another player in any professional sport that has had this done and still came back to be effective?

  6. Not many people (any?) are able to play professional sports with knees that are bone on bone. I’d keep the expectations pretty low if I were you. At least I am.

  7. College Wolf: I, I, I …

  8. The nice thing about signing Brandon Roy is that he isn’t the only thing the Wolves did to improve the team. If he works out then he is added depth at the 2 and can really help win some games until Rubio comes back. And if his knees don’t hold up hopefully they last long enough for Rubio to come back. Then we can give him a lot of rest and see what Roy has when the Wolves make the playoffs. This season isn’t dependent on Roy, but could go a lot better if he can stay healthy and prodcutive.

  9. I know that Roy will never the same as we once remember him. At least, I hope he will be like Grant Hill when he played for the Suns–a solid conributor and complementary player. I’ll be rooting for him.

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