As the NBA approaches its final month of hoop-less action in the offseason, NBA fans, basketball purists, and historians of the game are still mourning and hypothetically debating on certain missed opportunities that could have potentially put their franchise into basketball immortality.
Missed opportunities such as the Portland Trailblazers drafting Sam Bowie and electing to steer away from the legendary Michael Jordan. How about the Oklahoma City Thunder not offering the reigning MVP James Harden a contract extension to stay in Oklahoma City thus keeping the three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Harden.
The sight of heated NBA fans reliving poor business decisions by their front offices seems to never go away as time passes.
Players like Derrick Rose, Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, and Bill Walton all have been considered or inducted into the Hall of Fame, but still face that ambiguity of how things would have been if their health didn’t derail their NBA careers. But the injury that tends to be commonly forgotten is the short and sweet career of Brandon Roy.
Roy was selected sixth overall in the 2006 NBA Draft. His entrance to the NBA was accompanied by former long time Blazer LaMarcus Aldridge as the second overall pick of the draft.
Roy became an instant impact for the Trailblazers, averaging over 19 points in his first two games in the league prior to an impingement in his left heal that sidelined him for 20 games just a week into his rookie season. Despite the injury, Roy became the Western Conference’s Rookie of the Month for January, February, and March of 2007. Roy was named the NBA Rookie of the Year for the 2007 NBA Season averaging just under 17 points, 4.0 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game all in just 35 minutes of play.
In 2008, Roy earned NBA All-Star honors as a reserve for the Western Conference as he averaged 19 points, six assists, and five rebounds per game, while starting the first 48 games in the Blazers’ backcourt.
The following season, Roy had the best season of his young career averaging over 22 points per game. He was named an All-Star and was named to the All-NBA Second Team.
2009 was a big year for Blazer fans as the squad in the Rose City clinched a playoff birth for the first time in five years. The Blazers would go on to lose in the first round to the Houston Rockets in six games, but not due to the lack of play by Roy as he went on to average over 26 points per game. After a fast start to his career, he signed a maximum-salary contract with Portland.
Kobe Bryant believed, back in 2010, that “he (Roy) had no weaknesses in his game.”
Although 2010 was another great height that Roy reached, it was the year of his career that devastated his life as a basketball player. He became an All-Star again for the third time in his career, but that would be the last time he would share the floor with the elite of the game.
In early April, just days before the NBA Playoffs, Roy suffered a right knee bone contusion which turned out to be something far worse. Roy had suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee that would require surgery. Roy was expected to miss at least the first round of the playoffs and potentially more if the Blazers advanced further. Instead, Roy returned to the floor in Game 4 of the first round against the Phoenix Suns just eight days after going through surgery on his right knee. The Blazers were able to gut out a win, but lost in six to the Suns.
An avalanche seemed to follow Roy moving forward in this career. He dealt with a series of complications in his knees that limited his time on the court. In addition, whenever Roy was playing, his injuries limited his productivity on the court.
In February during the 2010-11 season, Roy would average a career-low 12 points per game in just 28 minutes of action for the entire month. The Blazers would face off against the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs that same season. Roy was invisible up until Game 4 when exploded for 24 points, but again the Blazers would lose the series in six despite his valiant effort.
Roy would elect to retire the following season due to his knees being too degenerated to play basketball. Portland and Roy parted ways as the Blazers terminated Roy’s contract using their amnesty clause for salary cap flexibility.
In 2012, with one last crack at playing in the NBA and living his dream, Roy would make a come back to the NBA by signing a new contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Despite the high hopes and dreams of potentially of making up for lost time, Roy would appear in a handful of games for the Wolves.
Roy would end up getting waived in May 2013 having only played six seasons of basketball. Roy said himself “Any time you walk away from the game, you have ‘what-ifs’. I feel like I was able to answer those questions last year by going out there and giving it a try.”
Roy could be remembered for his steady all-around play, but most notably recognized for his clutch gene that was similar to that of Kobe. He was a dynamic scorer that could dominate the game in bursts and high leverage moments. His game was nothing we had not seen before, but his value and impact on the Portland Trailblazers organization should not be forgotten.
If the Blazers had a healthy Roy and made a drafting correction selecting Kevin Durant instead of Greg Oden, NBA history could have very well been rewritten. But then again, the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum era may have ceased to exist as well.
The NBA’s cannon of “what if” situations, scenarios, and hypotheticals are never ending with possibilities not so far off from reality.
Roy’s career will be remembered as an under appreciated star who was forgotten due to injuries. A player the Blazer desperately wanted to have stay healthy and carry the franchise for years.