Greg Jayne: A wonderful ride for Roy, Blazers

Commentary: Greg Jayne

By

Published:

 

What we really need is Frank Capra to direct this movie. To turn it into a local version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and remind us of what the Blazers’ world would be like without Brandon Dawayne Roy.

There could be scenes of a dark, dank, joyless Portland. And a cranky, humorless Paul Allen. And a montage of Trail Blazer mugshots from the county courthouse.

There could be visions of a soulless franchise mired in a perpetual cycle of losses on the court and lottery picks off of it, a club still shackled by its “Jail Blazer” reputation.

Oh, it might be a stretch to suggest that Roy single-handedly delivered Portland from that hideous reality. But if Capra were around, perhaps he could encapsulate what this area would be like if Roy had not landed here five years ago to bring a little sunshine to the franchise.

Maybe there’d even be a little girl saying, “Every time a bell rings, that means Brandon Roy scored a basket.” Or something like that.

Because now, as Roy limps away from the game at the all-too-young age of 27, it is difficult to summarize his impact on a franchise that serves as the heartbeat of its city.

Not long ago, the Blazers were suffering through 27- and 21-win seasons. And five straight years in the Draft Lottery. And a dour reputation for housing miscreants in the locker room.

And while many factors played a role in reversing those fortunes — changes in management, emergence from bankruptcy, smart draft picks and wise trades — Roy was anointed as the symbol of that makeover. He was treated as the George Bailey who reminded fans of how wonderful it was to follow the Blazers.

Sure, there were memorable moments, like a 40-foot game-winner against the Rockets and a 52-point outing against the Suns and a 42-point outburst in Roy’s second playoff game.

But there was more. Roy was embraced as much for his demeanor as for his talent. It’s not every NBA All-Star who keeps a hand-written note reading, “stay humble” in his locker. It’s not every millionaire who worked as a teenager hosing down stench-filled shipping containers at the Port of Seattle.

That is what made Friday’s news of Roy’s retirement so difficult for Blazer fans — he is a symbol of the franchise’s resurrection.

From a basketball standpoint, Roy’s departure creates a relatively small wound.

His knees limited him to 47 games last season, and his explosiveness would come and go like flies through a hole in the screen door. There was no reason to believe he could be more of a factor this season, and the Blazers eventually might be better off without the doubt that accompanied that uncertainty.

But from an emotional standpoint, Roy’s loss signals the end of an era that almost was. Not long ago, Blazer fans could envision a title contender led by the triumvirate of Roy, Greg Oden, and LaMarcus Aldridge, and nobody would have guessed that by 2011 Aldridge would be the only one holding up his end of the bargain.

Roy’s retirement brings with it more than a tinge of sadness. Not only for the franchise’s loss, but for the thought of a wonderful athlete whose body betrayed him long before its time.

That is the overriding sentiment in the wake of Friday’s announcement, and it will linger for a while. But over time, it will give way to another thought: It was a wonderful career.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/weblogs/GregJayne