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Will Blazers Brandon Roy Ever be Same Player Again?

What a crazy thing to happen to a team and a player. You take a guy who appears to be a perennial all-star and blink — and he’s a broken-down has-been who doesn’t even look as if he ought to be a starter.

And really, it’s not as if it’s all the result of a single catastrophic injury.

I don’t know what to think about the cause of all this. I’m not sure I understand how the team could have been so blindsided by this that it gave this man a long-term contract at max dollars. Obviously, these conditions in his knees existed a year ago last summer when the contract was signed.

But forget that for a moment. What’s done is done. The question now is, how can you use Brandon Roy? What can be done to accommodate him? What can he do?

Well, for one thing, it would be interesting to know how much of what we’re currently seeing on the floor is due to physical pain in his knees and how much is due to his mental approach. I mean, sometimes I watch and wonder if he’s playing as hard as he can. He has always been a guy playing at his own pace. He didn’t often hit high gear even at his best.

Now, he’s on cruise control virtually all the time. It’s incredible how infrequently the guy runs hard during an NBA game. A brisk trot is usually his quickest pace. And man, it’s hard to fit that into a team that wants to play faster and harder than that.

His whole game was predicated on beating his man off the dribble and finishing at the basket. He can not consistently do either of those things right now. It’s seemingly gone. And not only can’t he do it — he’s turned into a turnover machine, too — one who no longer gets assists or rebounds.

And frankly, I still suspect that’s not totally physical. He appears to me to be holding back. I don’t know if he’s uncertain about his abilities or he just doesn’t want to push things too far.

But what I do know is this — if this is all Roy has left, the team would be better off if he wasn’t in the starting lineup. Wesley Matthews is simply a better player than Roy right now. People keep saying that the Blazers ought to forget Greg Oden and just move on. I believe it would be better served if the Blazers forgot Roy as a starter and moved on. Unless he’s got more in the tank than he’s been showing.

Start Matthews at two-guard, because that’s what he is, and get Nic Batum back in the starting lineup. And for heaven’s sake, forget all those lineups without a point guard — they’ve been a total failure. I don’t care if you use a rookie point guard — you’ve got to have a point on the floor or this team will never get into any semblance of an offense.

Part of my frustration in watching this is that it didn’t have to be this way. The reason Roy is so locked up on offense right now is that for years he’s been allowed to play outside any offensive system. Nate McMillan created a monster. Everything here has been built on Roy’s one-on-one game and instead of having a system that would have helped ALL PLAYERS get good shots, everyone played off Roy.

It has been four guys standing around watching Roy play. It was a system that never worked in the post-season and couldn’t possibly be a long-term strategy of a good team.

Even Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant couldn’t win until their teams found ways of getting secondary players involved. And Roy, even in his prime, was no Jordan or Bryant.

And now that Roy is ineffective in that role, the team has no fall-back position — no default game. It is stuck and I’m not sure it can get out of this muck with Roy continuing to try to be something he’s not.

Just watch him when he wants the ball. He won’t move to get it. He stands, tries to lock his defender away from the ball, sticks his hand out and pleads for a pass. That’s not always an easy pass to make, particularly if there’s pressure on the ball. It’s led to crucial turnovers for this team in the fourth quarter. Man, you’ve got to move to get the ball. Get yourself open! Work to get open!

But we’re not seeing that.

Can Roy become a catch-and-shoot guy? Yes, I think so. He’s become a pretty good shooter. But he’d have to be willing to move — set screens, make hard cuts, play from one side of the court to the other — to get those shots. And I’m not seeing any indication that he’s being asked, or that he’s willing, to accept such a role.

And until he does, this team is going to be locked up in a slow downward spiral.


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