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Calkins: An open letter to Brandon Roy

Matt Calkins: Commentary

By Matt Calkins
Published: February 19, 2012, 4:00pm

Dear Brandon,

It’s been a while. More than nine months since anyone has seen you at the Rose Garden. It’s not hard to tell, either. Portland eardrums haven’t been this stress-free in years.

I hope you’re well, though. Jamal Crawford said you were thinking about finishing up your degree at Washington. Seems appropriate. Someone as bright as you without a diploma is like a martini without an olive.

So I suppose “back to school” answers the question of where you are going, but what I kind of want to know is: Where have you been? No goodbyes, no appearances. Nate McMillan said he put a call into you a couple weeks ago but never heard back.

I know that people have described you as supernatural, but I never thought that would mean ghost.

I understand, though. How can I not? You had your career snatched away just as you were hitting your prime. I don’t believe for a second that $80 million is supposed to assuage that pain. If Scorsese were banned from the director’s chair, he wouldn’t just shrug his shoulders and buy a house in the Hamptons.

Fans seem to understand, too. At least a lot of the ones I asked did. I was curious because, on the day you announced your retirement, the Northwest morphed into a giant group therapy session.

People called into radio shows crying. Folks immediately petitioned to have your jersey retired. During the first preseason game, fans held up signs that read “Never forget.” A little dramatic? Probably. But it certainly wasn’t to them.

That’s why I figured the invisibility cloak you’ve been wearing for the past two months would peeve some of those supporters, who might feel victimized by unrequited love.

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Well, it hasn’t seemed to bother Joel Enebel, who was asked about you showing up to the Rose Garden and said, “I think it’s totally up to him. You feel more bad for him than you do the fans.” And it certainly hasn’t irked Tyler Thomas, who added, “He’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. If he doesn’t show up for a while, it’s all right. It’s his life.”

But there also are guys like Mike Rhyasen, who sympathized with your exit from the game, but said, “I’m disappointed that he hasn’t come back. We put a lot of our faith in Brandon. He’s meant so much to this city.” And then there was Alex Cook, who admired your desire to go out as a Blazer, but asked, “So he just retires and then there’s no more connection to the team? We haven’t heard from him. That seems like a contrast from what he’s all about.”

The discussion has spilled over to press row, where some writers believe you should have shown your face by now, others think you are contemplating a comeback, and one who told me bluntly: “Brandon Roy doesn’t owe anybody anything.”

Believe it or not, he’s the one I agree with. Which is exactly why I think we should see you soon.

Brandon Roy wasn’t special because he reached out to people out of obligation. Brandon Roy was special because he did so out of joy.

I heard stories about you filling reporter’s notebooks up for an hour after practice, not caring if they were with Sports Illustrated or the Medford Mail Tribune.

You gave fans the same treatment — signing autographs with that smile, interacting with that charisma. Your nickname, “The Natural,” applied to more than just your on-court ability.

So why not walk back into the Rose Garden and salute the folks who have deified you? Why not sit courtside, let the Jumbotron display your face, and soak in a standing ovation like nothing that arena has ever heard?

Is it because you might cry? That’s OK. Fans have always relished the way you showed emotion in that building, whether it was collapsing into Nic Batum’s arms after Game 4, or almost ripping your jersey off after burying Houston with a buzzer-beater. Tears would not be a sign of weakness. They would be a sign of authenticity.

Is it because you are, in fact, considering a comeback? So what? This doesn’t have to be a retirement party. If you return in three years wearing a No. 7 Clippers jersey, the RG will still be brimming with fans wearing No. 7 Blazers jerseys.

Jamal said that he doesn’t think you watch too many Blazers games these days, and that’s not surprising when you think about it. But we’re halfway through the season, and I think most people expected you to say hello by now.

Team president Larry Miller said that there’s an open invitation, “But it’s up to Brandon, too.”

Fans deserve that moment, Brandon. But you deserve it, too.

A whole season without Brandon Roy? It just doesn’t seem … natural.

Matt Calkins covers the Trail Blazers for The Columbian. He can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email matt.calkins@columbian.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blazerbanter