Well, that's not exactly what we had planned for the opening day of training camp.
I almost didn't sit down to write tonight following Day 1, because I'm still trying to process what has just happened. I think, acting as the leadoff hitter, and facing our first pitch, we just got a 102 mph fastball under the chin.
That's actually a terribly selfish way to look at this stuff. Nothing that we, as fans, are feeling compares to the disappointment and immediate life adjustment Brandon Roy is dealing with. But, if we do get caught feeling sorry for ourselves a bit over this, I don't think B would mind. He's selfless enough to handle that.
Without taking a ton of time with giving you the back story (because you already know all of that), I'm just going to give you some thoughts as they pop into my head. Then, I encourage you to do the same with your comments below. Sorry if this seems scattered.
I've never known a player with better perspective or a better handle on his place in the Blazer world. He always knew he was Brandon Roy, but unlike so many others in his position, never seemed to get caught up in his own headlines. You always felt he was doing all of this for someone else.
I have never been around another Blazer player who was more giving of his time, or more respectful in the process. I don't like asking these guys for too much, or overstepping my bounds. We have a job to do, and I try to be very careful with that. And, be it an interview, a comment, or just a quick conversation on the team bus, Brandon never, ever, gave me the impression he was bothered. We're around these guys a ton, and believe me, I can sense when they get sick of us. I don't blame them. We're always asking for something. Everyone was always asking Brandon for something. But, he always seem to realize that his job entailed more than just playing. For this franchise, it most certainly did.
Brandon, without ever asking for credit, put this franchise on his back on so many occasions. I got that feeling on the night we drafted him, and he joined us on the phone on our radio broadcast. Everyone got that feeling in game 4 of the playoff series with Dallas last spring. And those are just the bookends on his amazing run. How odd that after that historic personal performance against Dallas he would play just two more games in his career.
I don't feel like it's going too far to say he rescued this franchise (a story you're also very familiar with). For that reason, I'll always think all of this was ultimately worth it. Even if it ended way too soon. As emotionally crushed as he is right now, I'm sure he feels the same way.
The sad part is, I'm not sure when we'll see another player like him. Are the emotions far too fresh for us to be able to accurately rank him in terms of importance to this franchise's history? I don't think so. Because after last season, through all of the struggle, we started to realize that this day would eventually come way too soon. We didn't think it would be this soon, however.
Last Monday, when I was told of the conversation Roy had with Larry Miller, Chad Buchanan, and Nate McMillan, at Miller's house, I started to let myself believe that maybe a miracle had happened, and that his knees would actually allow him to produce more magical moments. Even as late as Thursday night we sat in a broadcast meeting talking about how we would handle the expectations going forward with Brandon, and how perhaps the lockout actually may have been a blessing to his condition.
Then came Friday morning.
I saw that I had 23 text messages when I turned on my phone at 7:30 am. I only had to read one to know what all of the others were about.
Roy's teammates got the word later in the morning. Buchanan broke the news to them in a team meeting. We all knew that this day wouldn't be about the first day of training camp, or a new point guard, or how odd it was that we were beginning a season the day after Christmas. It was going to be all about Brandon. We'd had those days before, but it's strange to think we won't have one again.
Just days earlier Wesley Matthews had said that he couldn't even imagine the Portland Trail Blazers without Brandon Roy. Marcus Camby, after Friday's first practice, pointed up at the retired numbers hanging in the practice facility, and simply said, "he belongs up there." I'm sure you agree. I don't think that's an if
. That's a when
I'll miss that devastating crossover. I'll miss the left handed finishes around the rim. I'll miss his flair for the dramatic, and his courage to take over a game. I'll mostly miss what he meant to this team, to its fans, and to the city. I guess we'll always have that, it's just sad that it's now going to be only in the past tense.
I don't know where he's going, but I hope he doesn't go far.
We still need him.
This league needs more players like him.
(Late Friday night Brandon, Paul Allen, and Larry Miller issued initial statements on this situation).
"This is a very difficult and painful day. I love the game, I love the Portland Trail Blazers and I love our fans, but after consulting with my doctors, I will seek a determination that I've suffered a career ending injury, pursuant to the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.
"My family and health are most important to me and in the end this decision was about them and my quality of life. I want to thank Paul Allen, Larry Miller, Coach McMillan, the entire Trail Blazers organization and our fans for all of their love and support during my time in Portland. It was a great ride."
"Like every Blazer fan, I am very sad to learn that Brandon's playing days have ended. Up until Thursday night we were looking forward to seeing him back on the court Friday for the first day of practice.
"I want to personally thank Brandon for all he's done as a Trail Blazer, on and off the court. He is a true All-Star and we all rooted for him as he gave us so many amazing moments during his five years as a Blazer."
"Brandon Roy will always be a Trail Blazer in our hearts and minds. He was an All-Star and a warrior every night that he stepped on the court and gave everything he had to help us win. He was a role model on and off the court, and through his leadership he turned us into a winning franchise once again."
Nate McMillan Speaks on the First Day of Training Camp:
Chad Buchanan Speaks about Roy, Oden and Aldridge:
If you want to leave notes and stories about Brandon, please leave them in the comments or in this messageboard thread. We'll get them to him.