UPDATE: Brandon Roy retiring due to knees
Chronic knee injuries lead to retirement for young face of Portland’s franchise
Originally published December 9, 2011 at 8:39 a.m., updated December 10, 2011 at 12:47 a.m.
Beat writer Matt Calkins weighed in on Roy's woes in today's column.
Blazers shooting guard Wesley Matthews spoke earlier this week about having Brandon Roy back in the line-up and what he means to the team.
TUALATIN, Ore. — With buzzer-beating game winners, fourth-quarter heroics, and a near peerless skill set, Brandon Roy has spent the past five years stopping Trail Blazers fans’ hearts.
Friday morning, however, he was just breaking them.
Due to chronic knee injuries that plagued him throughout last season, Roy will take a medical retirement from the game of basketball. He's 27.
"This is a very difficult and painful day. I love the game, I love the Portland Trail Blazers and I love our fans, but after consulting with my doctors, I will seek a determination that I've suffered a career ending injury," said Roy, who was did not address the media Friday but made comments through press release Saturday morning. "My family and health are most important to me and in the end this decision was about them and my quality of life.
Perhaps it is fitting that the man who consistently dropped jaws while playing did just the same when walking away.
Blazers guard Wesley Matthews said he was "shocked" when heard the news and that "it's hard to think about the Trail Blazers without Brandon Roy."
Portland coach Nate McMilan added that he was "surprised," and "was expecting Brandon to be here."
Part of the reason people were so caught off guard was due a conversation Monday morning.
McMillan, Blazers president Larry Miller and Blazers acting general manager Chad Buchanan had all met with Roy and left feeling incredibly optimistic. McMillan went so far as to say that he planned on re-inserting Roy back into the starting lineup once the season began, while Buchanan added: “Brandon is in a great spot. I think he feels excited about the season.”
But Thursday evening, Buchanan fielded a call from one of Roy’s representatives that possessed an entirely different message — that Roy was seeking medical retirement.
Buchanan informed the Blazers Monday morning, but most had already found out via Twitter or text message.
And while the shock was universal, the feeling of surprise quickly morphed to one of sorrow.
“i think everyone is just feeling sad for him,” said Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, who said he thought of Roy as a big brother. “I could not believe it. I still can’t believe it.”
Fans echoed that mentality, tearfully recounting their favorite Roy memories on the airwaves or scribing emotional missives on message boards.
Among the comments: “There’s a certain type of person that we wish all our players could be; Brandon is that person,” and, “If it wasn’t for From Page B1
Brandon, I wouldn’t be a Blazers fan anymore.”
Yes, Roy’s impact on the organization goes beyond three All-Star Game appearances and Rookie of the Year honors. His connection with this fan base is not simply because of his career averages of 19 points, 4.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Roy was the figurehead that ushered Portland out of the “Jail Blazers” era, replacing disgrace with dignity, and futility with fruition. And it wasn’t just Blazermaniacs lamenting his retirement — it was Roy’s peers, too.
Miami Heat forward LeBron James tweeted “Please say it ain’t so. Brandon Roy retiring. Losing one of the best 2 guards in the league before he’s ready to go.” Former Blazer Martell Webster added “B Roy, the league just lost a legend. I was looking forward to watching for another 10 years. You will be missed.” Thunder star Kevin Durant, meanwhile, said “Praying for Brandon Roy!”
But with most unexpected partings or retirements in sports, business tactics quickly become as prominent in the conversation as emotional outpourings. And the case was no different with Roy, who was unavailable for comment Friday.
The shooting guard was set to begin year two of a five-year, $82 million contract that many felt acted as an impediment to Portland’s development. After all, Roy’s declining knees kept him out of 35 games last year as he averaged just 12.2 points — and the Blazers were hamstrung to significantly improve their roster because of his impact on the salary cap.
Now, there will be more freedom to operate. But the question becomes . . . when?
Roy is guaranteed to get his money, but whether it is via medical retirement or by use of the amnesty clause will determine when the Blazers get cap relief. If they amnesty Roy, they can get him off the books immediately, but would be unable to use the clause on a player in the future. If they go the retirement route, however, they would get that cap room on the one-year anniversary of when Roy was deemed to suffer the injury — a date that is still to be determined.
Buchanan said that the team is “exploring all options,” in terms of how to handle Roy from a business standpoint. However, the only way Portland could use the mid-level exception vs. a mini mid-level exception this year (the former would allow the Blazers to pursue a higher caliber player during free agency) is to amnesty Roy and get below the salary cap.
Despite Roy’s abrupt departure, Buchanan said that the team’s primary objective remains shoring up the front court. Besides, as McMillan pointed out, “we’ve been through this before. Just once I’d like to show up to training camp and not have someone be out for the season.”
Still, most of Friday was spent reflecting the past as opposed to fretting the future. After all, there was plenty to reminisce about.
Roy’s career highlights include a 30-footer launched with 0.8 seconds left to beat Houston in 2008, a 52-point game against Phoenix that same year, and an 18-point fourth-quarter outburst against Dallas in Game 4 of the first round last April.
McMillan said that he used to call Brandon “Oprah,” “because it seemed like everything he touched turned to gold.” But perhaps Marcus Camby characterized it best Friday, when he pointed to the retired jerseys in the practice facility’s rafters and said “Brandon deserves to be right there.”
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email@example.com