THE BREAKING NEWS
I went to bed Thursday night in the most wonderful of moods. With finals coming up, I was confident that I would do well. I felt good about being able to go home for the holidays. I even had a bit of an evil grin that the initial trade attempt to send Chris Paul to the Lakers had been foiled (call it my anti-Laker blood).
Following my morning run, I went back to my dorm room to prepare some breakfast. This is the time I usually check my twitter feed to take a look at conversations which have occurred overnight. and to enter my good morning tweet to my followers.
Then I saw it. ESPN's Chris Broussard cited sources saying that Brandon Roy was going to seek a medical retirement. At first, I thought Broussard was off his rocker. I started noticing other reports, but they were all referencing Broussard. It was taking a while to get confirmation.
Then, my twitter feed blew up. Another report came. And another. This was being confirmed by nearly everyone. Brandon Roy's career was to come to an end.
It was a strange sense of sadness and honor. There was no desperation; just admiration. After all, a week ago, it very well looked as though Brandon might be waived (or amnestied, if you prefer). There was cause for optimism last Monday when news broke that Brandon was feeling great. In fact, he was feeling better than when he was entering last season. He might even regain his starting position.
That won't be. What we have is a legacy we can't truly yet measure.
When someone asks you what your favorite Brandon Roy moment is, how do you answer that? Certainly, there are a plethora of impactful shots, runs and plays from which to choose. I have often lamented with others about this question. Even when these respective answers differ, there is no disagreement. Each moment stands both by itself and as a tribute to Brandon's overall body of work.
One thing which sticks out for me, personally, is a team moment. When Brandon stepped out on to the court right before game 4 of the 2010 playoff series against phoenix, infusing his team with an increased sense of spirit and motivation. This is the moment which occurred just nine days after having surgery on his knee. It wasn't only his teammates who were infused with spirit. I wasn't at the Rose Garden that day, but it was clearly evident that the fans there had gotten -- and would remain -- loud. It was certainly that way at my house.
There are countless shots which could be singled out, countless game winners, countless exceptional plays.
Perhaps my favorite moment came just a few months ago. Coincidentally, in another game 4, another home playoff game; this time against Dallas in April. By now, we all know how Brandon took over that game and brought the Blazers back from 18 down in the fourth quarter (21 down if you include the three-pointer he hit with less than two seconds left in the third). That is the stuff legends are made of. It was at that moment when many thought his knees would allow him to continue playing for a few more years, and to be productive at that.
I blogged the following about Brandon's performance: Winning Game 4 was 'Natural'
I go back three days from that game four. Brandon scored 16 points (7 in each of the second and third quarters), dished out 4 assists, grabbed a rebound and added a steal as the Blazers won by a 97-92 score. Brandon was integral in helping the Blazers pick up the win, and looked great in the process. He looked great in the game; played intelligently and athletically. The most important thing, as Brandon himself would probably tell you, is that Portland won the game.
With those two performances, back-to-back, Brandon's future with the Blazers surely looked promising.
Brandon takes over in game 4 against Dallas (courtesy pinwheelempire.com)
NO MORE DARK ERA
It's no secret that before Brandon got here, things were not going well for the team. To be truthful, things had been going downhill for a few years. The team had signed a registered sex offender, one player had heaved a ball and hit a rookie center in the head, another had thrown a towel in a teammate's face late in a game, and still another had been found guilty for staging dogfights at his home. Things were not going well at all. Some fans were not even going to games; there were empty seats in the Rose Garden stands.
The number of wins declined, so much so that the Blazers finished the 2005-06 season at 21-61 -- the worst record in the league. The draft lottery gave them the fourth pick, but the Blazers weren't satisfied with one good player at number four. Through a pair of trades, They acquired second pick LaMarcus Aldridge and sixth pick Brandon Roy of Texas and Washington, respectively.
Both came into Blazers camp and seemingly immediately we were seeing the light through the dark both on and off the court. Perhaps the most impressive report regarding Brandon was when he stood up in the locker room that rookie season and told his teammates -- veterans and youngsters alike -- that it everyone had to step up, himself included. I firmly believe it's at that moment when Brandon became the face of the Blazers franchise.
Brandon stepped up big time and showed why the team traded for him. He was a leader; he was a star; he was a fan favorite. He capped off his first NBA season by winning the league's Rookie of the Year honor and making the all-NBA all-rookie first team. LaMarcus didn't do too shabby either, also being named to the all-rookie first team.
The two fresh-faced rookies had the Blazers heading in the right direction -- on the court (plus-11 improvement in wins from the previous year) and off the court. Fans were starting to come back and Rip City was again beginning to take pride in their team.
Brandon was so impressive as the new leader of the Blazers and with his R.O.Y. award (seriously, how prophetic was that?!), that the organizaiton sent him to represent the team at the draft lottery.. Despite having just the seventh-best chance of winning the first pick, Brandon sat at his Trail Blazers marked position and watched as the team was awarded the first pick. If it was possible, fans were liking him even more by that point.
Bringing home the number one draft pick in 2007
I remember reports that spring of 2007 of Brandon and LaMarcus meeting prospective first picks Greg Oden and Kevin Durant at the airport for their respective workouts. Yet another example of how Portlanders want their players to be.
Brandon was gracious to the fans, and they were gracious to him. Thanks in big part to Brandon Roy, Blazers fans had their team back; the team they wanted, and the honorable type of players which had been missing.
Brandon was voted to the all-star team the next three years. Fans loved that. Not only had he led the charge to repair the franchise, thanks to Brandon, the team was starting to receive some acclaim and honor. National analysts were taking notice of this emerging Portland team.
In 2007-08 the Blazers again improved their win total from the previous season, this time by nine games to a respectable 41-41. Fans were excited and chomping at the bit for the following season.
They were not disappointed. Thanks to Brandon, LaMarcus and Greg, the Blazers won 54 games that year, shared the Northwest Division tittle and earned home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They fell in six games to Houston that year, but all of Rip City knew the Blazers were back.
Brandon would lead the team into the playoffs in 2009-10, against Phoenix, only to miss the first three games before his dramatic emergence in game four just nine games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee.
Due to his knee injuries, Brandon missed a good portion off last season. He didn't quite look like the guy we remembered from the previous years. Out of necessity, the offense was reworked. The main option now was to go through LaMarcus. That was the plan now. Second-year free agent acquisition Wesley Matthews was in place at Brandon's position. Things had changed with the lineup. Brandon would be in an unfamiliar position -- coming off the bench.
The Blazers once again made the playoffs, and were set against Dallas. The Mavericks took two games, then came the aforementioned games three and four which would turn out to be Brandon's final finest hours.
As you know, the Blazers fell in that series in six games and the Blazers' season was over. Little did we know it also marked the end of Brandon's career as a player.
Going up for two of his co-team high 18 points in the 2009 all-star game
A RIDE WHICH SHALL CONTINUE
Over these past seasons, Brandon Roy has taken Blazer fans on an extraordinary ride, one like I've never seen in my lifetime in watching a whole lot of sports teams. Sure, there have been teams rebuild and contend where they haven't before.
What I'm saying is that I've never seen a team go from one of the worst records in its league, and from one of the lowest fan approvals in sports ... to a perennial playoff team and one of the fan bases that, if we weren't so accepting of each other, might just fight for tickets to see our team.
There have been many contributing reasons for that uprise, but there's only one prominent reason for it. Brandon Roy. I would challenge anyone to name another player who could have not only led the Blazers out of the dark era, but made most of us all but forget those days. When I look at all those in professional sports, I really can't come up with one who has and could do what Brandon Roy has done for the Blazers, their fans and the city of Portland.
The team which used used to be referred to as the Jail Blazers is now boasted as the team with the best fans in the NBA. I mean, we do have the best fans in the league; Charles Barkley said so. Brandon Roy did that. No question.
What I find ironic is that he probably didn't realize the effect he was having when it was happening. I see him as just being that type of player -- and man -- that he is.
Not only has Brandon had that effect on pretty much everyone in the Blazer Nation, his example will not soon be forgotten or adhered to. His legacy will continue. Just look at the current group of players. There's not a single one of them you can't smile when discussing. Perhaps more than any other NBA city, that is important to fans. We wish to be represented well.
If that trend is to continue, it will be because incoming players understand that, and understand the example Brandon has set for the players of this franchise.
THE FAMILY MAN
It's been known, and repeated much of late, that Brandon's commitment to his family is paramount in his life. I thought I would share this excerpt from Wikipedia which, among other things, I find quite creative and romantic:
"Roy's longtime girlfriend, Tania, delivered their first child, Brandon, Jr., whom they nicknamed B.J., on March 27, 2007, in Seattle.
About two months later, Roy took Tania out to look at rings 'just to get an idea of what she'd like.' On June 15, 2007, while both were at Roy's home in Renton, Washington, he sent Tania a text message instructing her to look in a drawer in his closet, telling her that she could have whatever she found. Tania discovered a ring that she had mentioned she liked, at which point, Roy entered the room with their son and said, 'B.J. wants to know if you will marry his daddy.' She immediately accepted. Roy said the entire proposal was 'free-styled.'"
Brandon walks with his daughter, Mariah, at their home. (courtesy oregonlive.com)
INTO THE FUTURE
I can't begin to imagine what is going through Brandon's mind and heart right now. I do know that basketball was a passion to him. Prior to joining the Blazers, he had stellar careers in high school and at the University of Washington.
I've seen players become emotional at the end of their careers, in press conferences and interviews, but that is usually after a very long career and when they're in their mid-to-late thirties. For Brandon's career to be over a decade earlier than that must be incomprehensible.
After the news had sunk in, there was even a consensus among some fans that he would make a good coach, preferably for the Blazers. I'm sure Brandon isn't even thinking along those lines at this point, but I certainly agree that is basketball iq and intellect seems geared toward that kind of career. Blazers president Larry Miller even indicated his hope that Brandon would have a role with the team going forward. I, for one, hope that when Brandon is ready to move on, he gives that some strong consideration.
WHAT ABOUT NOW?
While that question maybe isn't at the forefront of our minds as we reflect on Brandon's career, we need to move forward as a team. Coming into training camp, the Blazers were already heavy at the guard positions
This doesn't really affect the point guard position (at least, I wouldn't think so) Raymond Felton will be the starter there with Nolan Smith and Armon Johnson battling for backup minutes.
Wesley Matthews, who started the majority of games last season at sg, should remain the starter. He most likely will be backed up by a committee of Elliot Williams and Nicolas Batum. Nolan and Armon are capable of playing the sg position in stretches, and Coach McMillan indicated that Luke Babbitt may even see some minutes there.
The point being: It's not panic time, the Blazers have guys who can play the guard positions. As it must, the team will move on.
For all the reasons I've mentioned -- and many more -- I have the utmost respect for Brandon and what he's done for the city of Portland. One might say he put us back on the map. That kind of thing will not be forgotten.
Thanks in large part to my dad, I became a Blazers fan when I was around two years old. It was fun following the players until we hit that dark era. I loathed it when others criticized the character of some of the Blazer players. I can't say some of it wasn't accurate -- nevertheless, it was bothersome.
Now, I take great pride in my home-town team. Brandon was a huge part of that and I thank him for it.
In Kassandra's Words features regular blogs throughout the year. Comments and questions are welcome and encouraged. Seasons begin and end, but our Blazers are forever. Please follow on twitter: @PDXKass