Brandon Roy and historical revisionism

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John Canzano, that most polarizing of Portland sports media figures, has made waves over the last few days with a report that cites a “consulting surgeon” with knowledge of Brandon Roy’s knee situation as saying that Roy has, at most, one to two years left as a high-level professional basketball player. If true, this does, of course, radically alter the Trail Blazers’ long-term outlook, given not only Roy’s immense on-court value to the team when healthy, but also the five-year max deal Kevin Pritchard gave him in the summer of 2009.

Besides possibly constituting a massive HIPAA violation on the part of this consulting surgeon, this report has also re-raised questions about that contract. Since it became clear earlier this season that Roy’s knees are in far worse condition than anyone had previously thought, it has been suggested not only by Canzano but also by Bill Simmons and other prominent NBA writers that it was irresponsible of Portland’s front office to give Roy a max deal in the first place. It’s not just in the media that this sentiment is growing: I’ve seen it on Twitter and in the comment sections of several well-known NBA blogs. I’ve even seen it suggested that part of the reason Pritchard was fired last summer was because he gave Roy over $80 million in guaranteed money knowing full well that his knees wouldn’t be up to the job.

Let’s back up here for a second. Should the Blazer management, knowing what they knew about Roy’s knees, have attempted to put some kind of safeguard, be it a team option or some kind of injury-based escape clause, in the contract? Probably. But think back two summers. The Blazers were coming off a 54-win season and their first playoff appearance in six years, and this newfound success was due in large part to Roy, who elevated his game in 2008-09 to another level from his already-impressive first two seasons. There was a strong case to be made that he was, at that point, the second-best shooting guard in the Western Conference, next to only Kobe Bryant. He made his second consecutive All-Star game, and was viewed by an ever-growing section of the media and general public as a guy who would soon become one of the top 10 or 15 players in the league.

Beyond that, he was (and is), by all accounts, a model teammate and citizen. There was no reason whatsoever for an up-and-coming team like Portland to hesitate at building around this guy. There were a few guys in the league you’d take over him as your franchise player, but not many. So when it came time to negotiate an extension to Roy’s rookie contract, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he would be worth a max deal. In fact, there was considerable uproar among Blazers fans because Pritchard and Paul Allen didn’t get this deal done immediately. How quickly we forget that it took a good month and a half of the summer before the Blazers and Roy agreed to terms, a period during which Brandon voiced his frustration with the negotiations on the radio several times and raised questions in the media (led, of course, by Canzano) as to whether Portland would let its franchise player get away.

The conversation about how the Blazers can move forward without banking on Roy’s long-term health and ability to contribute is a perfectly legitimate one to have. But it should never be questioned that including him in the team’s plans was the right move in the first place.

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  • James

    Wait a second:

    “There was no reason whatsoever for an up-and-coming team like Portland to hesitate”

    Sorry, but this is patently false. If you’ll remember correctly, Portland DID hesitate, and the hesitation was played out in the media as Vulcans interfering with the Portland front office when they shouldn’t have been hesitating at all. If you don’t remember this, then go back and review what was going on then. The prevailing theory was that Portland was hesitant to add the final year to his deal because of concern about his knees. Let’s not rewrite history here, and while I find the consulting doctor’s revelations about Roy’s knees to be highly unprofessional, it doesn’t change that it should make you question why they finally gave in.

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  • JB

    This article misses the real issue:

    Pritchard and the entire Trailblazers organization are responsible for the increased level of deterioration in Roy’s knees for allowing him to play eight days after arthroscopic surgery in both knees during last year’s playoffs. The Blazers were a 6 seed… Did the organization really think that Brandon Roy gave them a chance to make it to the Finals?

    • timbo

      Since Roy only had arthroscopic surgery in ONE knee prior to the playoffs last season, it causes me to call into question the whole of your (unsubstantiated) opinion about the organization’s culpability for rushing him back.

  • dekko

    I doubt Canzano actually had a consulting surgeon willing to reveal medical information about a client.
    John once blogged that NVE and his team option could be traded before July 1st and another team waive him. That the Blazers must do this before July 1st…When I called him on it because that would be against the CBA trade rules, he said the then GM Nash and 2 other GMs had told him this was the case.
    I emailed Nash who at the time had a public address and he of course had said no such thing. They did not have a team option, NVEs contract was not fully guaranteed the next season.
    So I think Canzano invents sources to back up his own opinions… maybe that is not the case this time but I remain skeptical.

  • Kelly

    I don’t think that anyone is questioning that including Roy in the team’s plans was the right move. And everything you remind us of is true, regarding Roy’s acension and the clamber and anxiety surrounding the slow moving contract talks. No one is forgetting any of that. But at the time we didn’t know the extent of Roy’s knee problems. And the point is that if the Blazers Brass DID know the extent, then they should’ve been much more cautious with what they gave to Roy, DESPITE public outcry, and DESPITE what Roy had done for the team. that is their job, to know more than fans and journalists and to act accordingly, sometimes even drawing our ire.

  • Kelly

    James, he’s not saying there was no hesitation. he pointedly refers to the hesitation. and his point is that at the time, nearly everyone was bashing the Blazers for dragging their feet. so i don’t think you are refuting anything from the article.

  • Svlittle

    Can’t stand canzano. I remember that summer him bashing the blazers for taking so long to give him that contract. He used the phrase “I’m on record” about giving roy max money so many times I thought he was running for office. This guy switches sides more often then a coin toss, he dedicated last summer trying to convince everyone Chip had no control of his players and then became his bff half way though the season. Does anyone take him seriously anymore?