The possibility of an amnesty clause in the new CBA has brought much debate among fans over which player their respective team should choose to cut. For some franchises, this is a fairly simple question (i.e. Gilbert Arenas in Orlando), but for others it remains much more ambiguous.
As a life long Blazers fan, my mind immediately went to the one-time franchise cornerstone turned hobbled superstar, Brandon Roy. Let me first start by saying I am firmly in the â€œ If thereâ€™s an amnesty clause Portland absolutely has to use it on Brandon Royâ€™s contractâ€ camp. Brandon has no meniscus in either knee and if he remains ineffective (which seems likely), his contract becomes a real contender for the worst in the league. Furthermore, injured or aging star players are often the most difficult egos to manage. Roy was already beginning to show difficulties dealing with his ever shrinking role within in the offense last season, and the situation stands to get worse. The Blazers also have LaMarcus Aldridge, who was able to fill the void left by Roy last year, and appears on his way to becoming a franchise player. While the rationale behind cutting Roy remains sound, I canâ€™t help but feel dirty, uncomfortable, and extremely sad for being so willing to kick the man who saved this franchise to the curb.
Before Brandon Roy, The Portland TrailBlazers were struggling through an extremely tumultuous period. After nearly beating the Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals, Bob Whitsitt proceeded to slowly decimate the roster, making ill-advised trade after ill-advised trade (leading to the often forgotten but simultaneously idiotic and awesome incident that was a fan getting kicked out of the arena for bringing a â€œTrade Whitsitt signâ€).Â What had once been one of the most loyal and passionate fan bases had become disgusted and disinterested with both management and players. The â€œJail Blazersâ€ moniker had re-emerged and the perceived lack of effort and interest only further aggravated everyone associated with the team.
Enter Brandon Roy. During his rookie season, Roy averaged 16.8 point per game, while also netting 4 assists and rebounds per contest. The Blazers still finished with a fairly disappointing record, but Roy had brought some life back to Portland; there was an electricity present in the Rose Garden that had previously been missing. Fans finally had something to get excited about, someone who gave us hope. It truly felt like we had found our hardwood savior.
The next few years served to confirm our first impressions. In his second season, Roy led the Blazers to a .500 record in an extremely competitive Western Conference. Then came that magical third season, the year in which nearly everyone considered Roy to be the third-best shooting guard in the league and possibly even a top-10 player in the NBA. Roy didnâ€™t dominate games in a conventional fashion. There was nothing physically awe-inspiring about him. His jump shot wasnâ€™t breathtakingly gorgeous, and his slow, methodical style wasnâ€™t as captivating as the torrid, slicing style of, say, Chris Paul.
What Roy did have was an incredible savvy for getting to the rim. His body control and dexterity were unmatched. More importantly, Roy never resigned himself to defeat. Even if he had been shut down for 3 quarters, Roy always figured out a way to put his imprint on the game. In Portland, fans developed this weird sense of inevitability, that in the fourth quarter of every close game, Roy would find a way to win.
I remember being at the now-famous Blazers-Rockets game early in the 2008-2009 season. Roy hadnâ€™t played well all game; Artest hounding him on every step, every cut, every dribble drive. After Yao Ming nailed an and-one jumper with 0.8 sec on the clock, a Houston victory seemed imminent. I was sitting at center court, a few rows back, probably no more than 20 or so feet from where the ball was being inbounded, I saw Roy break free, catch the ball and turn and shoot in one motion. As the ball left his hand and hung in the air I thought to myself â€œOH DEAR GOD, HE DID IT AGAIN. THAT IS GOING IN.â€ Sure enough, the ball dropped. The entire Rose Garden, myself included, lost our collective s**t. We all felt the same thing, like we were witnessing the beginning of a momentous shift. That after years toiling away in irrelevancy, Brandon Roy was going to turn this franchise into a formidable force.
With Roy, Aldridge, and Greg Oden, the Blazers looked to become a preeminent power in the Western Conference. Of course, for a few years it was Oden who served as the black sheep of the group. But ultimately, the same cruel fate that struck the promising center found a way to latch itself on to Roy. However, for Brandon, there seems to be a unique, perverse form of torture he endures. While Oden remains somewhat of an enigma, a giant, physically intimidating mass of unrealized potential, Roy was and is a known commodity. We saw him go toe to toe with the best in the league and triumph. We heard Ron Artest call him â€œthe most difficult player to guard in the league.â€ Roy was able to taste success, drink from fountain of NBA superstardom, and then almost immediately, before he could even fully actualize his accomplishments, it all vanished.
Royâ€™s career captures the same emotions and sentiments (at least from myself) as the careers of Tracy McGrady and Penny Hardaway. As children, and even as adults, (though some of us would be ashamed to admit it), we view these athletes as superhuman, as individuals who wield physical gifts and powers not bestowed upon us mere mortals. Itâ€™s not that they defy the laws of physics or possibility, they altogether seem unaware of their existence, as if they were born without any conception of limitations. In many ways they embody the boundless potential of the individual we value so dearly. Thus, when injury strikes down these once dominant powers, and forces them to walk around on planet earth with the rest of human kind, our beautiful fantasy is shattered. Reality creeps in to painfully remind us that sometimes, fate, circumstance, luck, god whatever youâ€™d like to call it, has a larger say then we choose to recognize.
I think ultimately, this is what makes my willingness to cut Brandon Roy so difficult. It lacks any kind of empathy or compassion. Yes, I know itâ€™s a business. I know the Blazers would be foolish not to get rid of his contract. Still, I canâ€™t help but feel everyone, Roy especially, deserves a lot better than this.