His knees serving as the executioner, Brandon Roy’s future as a top-tier NBA star is dead. So in typical human fashion, he traverses the stages of grief.
The only problem is, he doesn’t seem to understand the order.
It started with acceptance — Roy admitting a little more than a month ago that his most athletic days were behind him, that his body requires fewer minutes and that “it’s time to adjust.”
He followed that statement with depression — a reporter murmuring “depressing stuff” after said confession, to which Roy replied “tell me about it.”
A couple days later, however, he veered toward bargaining — confidently expressing that if he gives his knees proper rest, he can return to the Brandon Roy of old, citing other players (though not by name) who have adjusted under similar circumstances.
But yesterday he made sure to give blame and denial ample time in the spotlight, which to me suggests he’s just as unsure about his role with the Blazers as anyone.
Let’s start with blame: “I don’t know how people want us to play, because this is the personnel we have,” Roy told Jason Quick of the Oregonian. “I wasn’t that slow until you put a guy who is kind of slow next to me. I’ve always been kind of slow.”
If that wasn’t a shot at Andre Miller, Paul Allen spends his mornings cutting coupons. Miller’s value to the Blazers has always stemmed more from his head than his legs, and Roy has taken passive-aggressive blows at the point guard before, once expressing his desire for things to return to how they were “before ‘Dre got here.” But Roy had also successfully stuffed any antagonism toward Miller in the vault since mid-October. To bust it out again just comes across as petty.
“Even when I play good, our rhythm is up and down. Even when I play good, I don’t have great hope that tomorrow is going to be the same way,’’ Roy continued. “We don’t have a good rhythm, even in wins. Nothing has been consistent. It’s just game to game, and that’s just kinda how we are – it’s game to game.’’
One of sports writing’s most frustrating double standards is criticizing an athlete for spewing predictable, diplomatic quotes, and then burning him when he’s brutally honest. I won’t take that route here. Yes, Roy is highlighting a team flaw, but it’s not necessarily an attack given how he’ every bit a part of it. Still, his candor offers a glimpse into his frustration, making one wonder if suppressing these thoughts required more energy than letting them out.
OK, now the denial: “I think some of it is we have to establish what we want,’’ Roy said. “I don’t clearly know what we are trying to establish. I mean, watching the game (against Memphis), do you think I was the go-to guy in the first half?’’
Um…are you even capable of being the go-to guy?
“Yeah,’’ Roy said. “But our style of play, with our personnel, it’s still going to be tough.’’
Roy is 7 for 32 over his past two games. He’s managed double-digit scoring just once in his past four contests. He’s averaging four fewer points per game than he was last year, is tallying fewer rebounds and assists, and is shooting a dismal .399 from the field.
At this point, Roy is only a go-to guy if the Blazers’ are gunning for a lottery pick.
And that reality might just be hardest thing Brandon’s ever had to deal with.
Winning may in fact be what’s most important to Roy, but that’s in part because victory substantiates individual success. Professional athletes are driven to outshine their peers on every level, and when players such as Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest were calling Roy the toughest guard in the NBA, the Seattle native’s pride had to soar to Space Needle-like heights.
Then his knees suddenly rendered him a small step slower, which translates to a giant leap in the NBA.
It’s hard to be too upset with Roy’s venting. The grumpiest people aren’t the ones who spent their whole lives in the slum, they’re the ones who downgraded from a mansion to a townhouse. These past couple defeats combined with his poor play simply magnify what Roy has lost —so pointing a finger or ignoring the truth is more a form of catharsis than it is a display of malice.
Still, while Roy complains that he’s in a “Q Richardson role,” referring to the Orlando guard who’s averaging 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds, he should be taking on a Wesley Matthews role — worrying less about what he can’t do to and instead maximizing everything he can.
No, you can’t help but feel for Brandon, but he needs to expedite this five-stage journey. If not, he’ll just be causing everybody grief.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at email@example.com