Let me kick this off by saying aren’t we all glad the lockout is more or less over? I know that I am.
It means no more speculating about what the months of January and February will be like with only hockey in season. It means those really dedicated bloggers won’t have to resort to finding an actually interesting way to recap simulated NBA 2K12 games. But it also means that all those speculative issues that were raised at the end of 2010-11 are no longer strictly hypothetical.
The metaphorical celebration champagne hasn’t even dried—the deal hasn’t even been signed and the scheduled is still MIA—and Portland Trail Blazer fans already have their first big ticket item to deal with. Brandon Roy.
Three-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, undisputed franchise player and team leader Brandon Roy. At the end of last season there was speculation that Brandon might be asked to retire. I wrote about that, as did a lot of other people.
The question is no longer retirement, because let’s be honest the “Brandon Forced To Retire?” story wasn’t much more than a ploy. Now we’re talking Amnesty. The Amnesty Clause is very real, and there are probably more teams than just the Blazers that are looking at it as a get out of jail free card.
There are a ton of bad contracts out there. And the lockout was partially about fixing issues that led to these bad contracts and turned the NBA into an unsustainable business model. Very very few of the big names that came up following the introduction of the Amnesty Clause carried the weight of Brandon Roy, and because of that this issue has been central to the ongoing Blazers-post-lockout debate.
According to Storytellerscontracts.com, Brandon is set to receive a guaranteed $15 mil this season, $16.5 mil next season, and $17.9 mil in 2013-14. He’s going to get every penny of that deal—minus whatever is taken out for missed games during the lockout. That’s not the issue. The issue, of course, is whether or not he’ll make that money whilst wearing the number seven and playing his home games in the Rose Garden.
Smart money says he won’t. In fact, Portland’s paper of record says it’s already a done deal. Whatever the ultimate decision ends up being with regards to Brandon it won’t be popular.
There were already plenty of dissenters towards the end of last season who wanted to toss Brandon when his knee problems became the centerpiece of the team’s stretch run. Those people will no doubt see the Amnesty Clause as a good thing, and any attempt to either not use it or delay its use to see if Brandon can make some kind of comeback as capitulating to the desires of a know-nothing, bleeding heart, homer fan base at the expense of wins and losses.
And then of course there are those that believe the Brandon we all saw in Game Four of the first round of the Playoffs wasn’t some kind of fluke, and given the right kind of rest and training regimen we could see more of that Brandon and almost none of the Brandon from Game Two of the first round of the Playoffs.
Personally, my feelings fall somewhere in-between. I agree that no player should be deemed more important than the team. Winning games should be the top priority of management. I also believe that Brandon can still play, and that he will still be playing in the NBA once he’s Amnestied by the Blazers.
And it’s Brandon’s ability to play that has added an interesting wrinkle to the current Amnesty debate. When the Amnesty Clause was introduced in the old CBA, teams had something like 15 days to decide to use it before it went away (I say 15 because I don’t know the exact number but if you’re a stickler for those kind of details I’m sure the actual number is out there somewhere, I mean it is the Information Age). This time around, each team will have two years to decide if they want to release a player and have that player’s salary erased from their tax status.
Two years is a long time. Long enough to give a guy like Brandon Roy a chance to prove that he can still be THE GUY in Rip City. So if using Amnesty on Brandon only erases his salary from the Blazers’ tax status—and doesn’t free up a bunch of cap space to go out and grab a high profile free agent—and Portland isn’t under the gun to use it or lose it, letting Brandon at least show what he can do is a no-brainer. Right?
Well, not exactly. Here are two big things that jump out at me immediately. First, and probably foremost for Paul Allen, is that Brandon’s contract is big and gets bigger and will keep Portland in the luxury tax for awhile. With the new CBA, the luxury tax increases the longer a team pays it.
Paul Allen has stated that he’s lost billions as Portland’s owner, and using the Amnesty Clause on Brandon ASAP might just be his way of telling the league he’s serious about all those things he claimed to be serious about when he buffaloed Billy Hunter and ran the labor talks off the rails all those weeks ago.
And then there is the more pragmatic angle. Brandon Roy will be getting paid superstar money, and at his very best he might not be a superstar anymore. I agree that his skill set might make him a deadly sixth man. The type of sixth man that you could build a second offense around and that could be the lynchpin in a Championship team (SEE Terry, Jason). But the sixth man shouldn’t be the highest paid player on the payroll. That’s just bad business.
Brandon will no doubt get to be a killer as the first guy off the bench, but for what he’s getting paid it doesn’t make any fiscal sense for him to play that role with the Blazers.
So what does it all mean? Well to me it means that we basically should all start saying our goodbyes to the guy that worked as hard as he could to make the Blazers relevant again. It will be a shame if PA cuts him loose without at least giving him the chance to address the media and the fans that love him like they do. But life isn’t fair. And let’s be honest, Paul Allen doesn’t care what you think.
If I were the Blazers’ GM (if the Blazers brass are reading this let this stand as my formal application for the position) I’d let Brandon play. Why not? He’s earned his money, and if he can still contribute I believe there should be a place for him on the team. But I fear that it just isn’t going to happen.
I’m going to miss Brandon as much as anybody. The first time he comes into the RG in another team’s duds is going to be hard to watch. There are some upsides though. No Brandon will mean more minutes for Nicolas Batum, it will mean that LaMarcus Aldridge is the out-an-out face of the franchise, it will mean that Portland might actually be able to get a consistent five that can fast break.
Those are good things, and if it means more wins or a better showing in the Playoffs, I firmly believe the fans will move on from Brandon Roy.
Of course, the opposite is true too. If a B Roy-less Blazers tank and end up back in the lottery following 2011-12—not to mention if Roy ends up with a team like the Lakers or the Spurs and plays a key role in winning a Championship—the Amnesty Clause will become Portland’s Decision: the thing we all saw coming, were surprised by when it happened, and crushed whatever faith in the integrity of sports that we were foolish enough to have left.
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There are a lot of good Brandon highlight compilations out there. Here is one that I like, and I recommend that all Blazer fans collect a stash of their favorite Brandon Roy moments too. Or if that method will be too hard to take, my other suggestion is to disable YouTube on your computer.