He was done. Washed up. Past his prime and rapidly declining. Or so it may have seemed to NBA followers. They had no clue what was in store - what was waiting around the corner - that would have the city of Portland flashing back to the 1970's, to the 1990's, to The Natural of yore.
Brandon Roy was coming off double knee surgery in December, yet continued to sweat, tough out pain and work his way back into the Portland Trail Blazers' rotation. Limited minutes or not, Roy was coming back. Whether Trail Blazer fans supported the decision or criticized the three-time All-Star for potentially repeating history, Roy was coming back.
Moments came when he seemed to flash the "old" Brandon Roy, while others highlighted his setbacks due to his surgeries - namely his speed, quickness and vertical. There were times when Roy would go 0-for-6 from the floor and finish with one point - against the Los Angeles Lakers in March - and times when he took over, like his 21-point, 9-for-17 outing against Dallas in mid-March. It was nearly impossible to foretell which Roy would take center stage.
In the two opening games of the NBA Playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center, Roy shot a combined 1-for-8 for two points in more than 34 total minutes. Then, after playing a mere eight minutes in Game 2, he sent an earthquake through Rip City.
Following Portland's 102-89 loss in Game 2, Roy spoke with The Oregonian's Jason Quick:
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little hurt or disappointed," Roy said. "But the biggest thing is to keep moving, to try and keep my spirits up. But it's tough man. I just... I just always thought I would be treated better. That was a little disappointing for me."
Roy went on to talk about the difficulty of performing when out on the floor in three-minute stints, battling the adversity of mentally preparing to go out and play well, saying, "I mean, I don't know what I could have done!"
The response was overwhelming. "Retire" and "bench yourself" were some of the kindest suggestions. The focus went from how to defeat the Mavericks to how to subdue the Roy situation. Roy took both issues upon himself.
In a tightly contested Game 3 at the Rose Garden, Roy erupted. He honed in on Dallas' weaknesses and exploited them, pouring in 16 points off the bench to go along with four assists in nearly 24 minutes of action.
"He talked about wanting to play," Head Coach Nate McMillan said after Game 3. "He wanted to play the last game and I thought tonight he came out and he was focused. The comments (after last game) didn't bother him. He came out and played.
"He's meant a lot to this organization and I certainly have not forgotten about him or certainly do not disrespect this season. He's a guy that we are bringing along in the second half of the season and the playoffs, and trying to create this role... I thought he was solid out there."
That wasn't enough for Roy, however. That wasn't the ceiling of his capabilities. Roy pulled out a Little Giant Ladder and demonstrated just how high that cap was late in Game 4.
Portland struggled. Nothing was falling for the Trail Blazers while the Mavericks brought the rain on a rare clear day in Oregon. With a little more than a minute left in the third quarter, the Mavericks held a monstrous 23-point lead. They had the game put away, were on the plane and ready to seal the series in Texas. Or so they thought.
During the final quarter, Roy slipped on his cape and notched 18 of his 24 points, including a game-tying four-point play to knot the score up at 82 with 1:06 remaining. After Portland attained possession following Jason Terry's missed three-pointer that went out of bounds, Roy did it again. He isolated himself on Shawn Marion and banked home a pull-up jumper to give the Trail Blazers the lead for good. He played a pivotal role in Portland's 40-15 run to overcome the Mavericks and steal Game 4.
Portland became the third team in the shot clock era to pull of a win after trailing by 18 or more points heading into the final period - the first since 2002.
Roy was back. He was the closer once again. He was the hero, the savior, The Natural. It all came together when Marcus Camby approached Roy and embraced the All-Star, sending chills through the NBA community.
"Honestly, I don't really know what I was feeling," Roy said afterwards. "I just felt really good but at the same time when they were grabbing me, I just needed to embrace someone. It was one of those feelings where I was just happy to have their support. It still just doesn't feel real yet."
Later, Roy added:
"Honestly, I envisioned a game like this when I first came back from the surgery," he said. "I was like, 'Yeah, I think I'm going to do something special.' But as things progressed, I thought Game 2 was a down moment. I didn't think anything good was going to come. I was pretty down on myself. But like I said, the next day - so much support, I just wanted to go out there and give myself a chance. I didn't think that this would happen, but it was a great day for me and for our team."
Two wins still remain to clinch the first-round victory, but the score has been tied, the slates have been erased. It's a brand new ball game with a new-found weapon. He goes by Brandon Roy. You may call him The Natural.