Tuesday July 31st 2012 was a big day in the history of sport, what with the games of the Triple X Olympiad and all.
The Spurs of Europe (Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, and future Spur Nando de Colo) “upset” the Spur of South America (Manu Ginobili). Upset is in air quotes because some of those more senior than others didn’t consider France’s victory over Argentina an out and out upset.
Michael Phelps won another gold medal and set another record for the number of medals won by a single individual in a lifetime. The U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team succeeded where the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics team failed, winning themselves a gold medal in the process.
And the We Could Beat Any Historical Team In Our Dreams Team turned a 13-point halftime lead into 47-point blowout. Forty-seven coincidently is the lucky deficit a team needs to achieve to win a free Kobe Bryant signed sneaker.
Oh yeah, something else not Olympics related happened today too. At just before noon PST, the Minnesota Timberwolves introduced the world to one of their many big off-season signings.
Standing six feet six inches wearing the number three and hailing from the University of Washington: Brandon Roy.
I didn’t watch the press conference (Ben has a full transcript over at Blazersedge) for one reason. I’m not ready to admit that this is really happening.
There’s a good chance that the first time I actually see Brandon play during his 2012-13 comeback tour will be when he takes the court at the Rose Garden on November 23rd, a night that I’m sure no Blazer fan is looking forward to and that they will undoubtedly never forget.
But lets be serious for a minute, what’s the deal with the sentimentality and over reaction to Brandon’s decision to continue his professional career? Portland has lost players before. Bill Walton and Clyde Drexler were more important to the franchise, or at least carried the team to the, and close to, the NBA’s promised land.
Certainly they were missed when they left, but it seems like Brandon’s departure is a little different. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t born when Bill Walton and the Blazers split so I can’t really make a judgment as to how the city or the fan base reacted. Clyde was old and on his way out when he ditched Portland for Houston to win a title, something he had no shot at doing with the Blazers. I just bring those guys up so I can say this about today: Brandon is really gone, and seeing him in another team’s jersey, any other team’s jersey does/is going to hurt, like really hurt.
A small market fan base always has a special relationship with their team. Portland isn’t LA. In the City of Angles, if you don’t like the Lakers you can always watch the Clippers. If you don’t like basketball there are at least two professional baseball teams. If you don’t like baseball there’s always hockey. Not into hockey? Wait a couple years and you can root for LA’s NFL team. In the Rose City, you have the Blazers, and that’s about it.
Even in the small market, though, Portland’s relationship with Brandon went deeper. Maybe it was because he was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe it was because he carried himself in a slightly different way than most other NBA superstars. Maybe it was because in the course of proving that he was one of the best in the game he made the Blazers relevant again.
But probably it’s because in five seasons in Portland he produced so many amazing highlights that some people might forget that he had ten steals in a single game. Probably it’s because of this:
As Blazer fans we’re most upset about Brandon not being in Portland anymore because even though he did do a ton of amazing stuff, he never reached his full potential here. He needed another season without any serious injuries. He needed a healthy center that could score. He needed not to have to deal with Yao Ming’s greatest game as a professional in his first Playoff game ever.
Whether or not Brandon fulfills his destiny in Minnesota is anybody’s guess. I’m betting that he won’t. Be I also didn’t believe that he could score 18 points in a single quarter and single-handedly erase a 23-point deficit.
I’ve talked to a lot of people about Brandon signing with Minnesota. The best most people can do, when talking about Brandon going forward and whether or not they will root for or against him, is couch their feelings in terms of the end of a romantic relationship, a serious romantic relationship.
There’s something to that. I’m sure nobody compared watching Dante Cunningham play in the Rose Garden less than a week after he was traded to the Bobcats to seeing their ex-wife on a date for the first time, no matter how much they cared about DC and his cats.
How we deal with Brandon in Minnesota will be a reflection on how we as people deal with relationships ending.
No doubt some fans will want to throw salt all over the past and will talk about how Brandon’s slow, ball-stopping style of play was a drag to watch while they mention that when things got rough for him the first thing he did was complain.
Others still will ignore Brandon completely.
I’m still undecided. I don’t wish any ill on Brandon. In fact, I hope that he scores 50 points every night he isn’t matched up against the Blazers. I do know, though, that I probably won’ watch many Timberwolves games. And I do know that every time I see a Roy #7 jersey in the city I’m going to feel sad.
When November 23rd inevitably rolls around, I hope to be there. I want to see if he accidentally walks into the wrong locker room. I want to see if he passes to the wrong team. I want to hear a standing ovation that will last a half an hour.
I’d also love to get another chance to talk to Brandon. He’s always been a great interview. I want to hear what the local scribes are going to ask him. Are they going to dig deeper into his claim that it wasn’t his idea to retire? Are they going to question if he decided not to come back to the Rose Garden for a special night because he knew that his career wasn’t over? Are they going to ask him why Jamal Crawford was so terrible in 2011-12?
As for the rest of 2012-13 and Brandon Roy’s future, I imagine that eventually this town will move on. Time heals all wounds, and plus we now have Damian Lillard, the best kind of rebound, one with long-term potential.
I doubt Brandon will become an All-Star again in Minnesota, but his success is not really what worries me the most. I’m worried that Brandon is only coming back to prove to himself, the NBA, and to a lesser extent the fans in Portland that he can, and maybe he can’t. Watching a severely limited and pained Brandon Roy drag himself up and down the court is not something anybody wants to see.
That being said, saying Brandon is coming back to prove something to Blazer fans is reminiscent of the jilted boyfriend who swears up and done that his ex-girlfriend is only dating again to win him back, and that she couldn’t possibly be actually into that other dude. It’s delusional and self-serving and flat-out wrong.
Brandon is coming back because he loves the game of basketball, and at 28 didn’t feel like he was ready to be done playing it. Whether or not he can actually still play is sadly no longer any of our concern. He’s no longer on our team.
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