Written By: Tom McKay
Two years after his second NBA All-Star game and one year after an early retirement due to knee injuries, Brandon Roy has returned to the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Roy played in the Wolves’ regular-season opener Friday against the Sacramento Kings, recording 10 points, six assists, and five rebounds in 30 minutes, helping the team collect their first win in what is a hopeful season for the 28-year-old guard.
His health will be the major question mark this year. Wolves coach Rick Adelman has said that he and Roy plan to adjust Roy’s role as the season goes on, until they have a clearer picture of how Roy’s knees will handle the long, grueling NBA season. His 2-year/$10-million contract is certainly a risk on the part of Minnesota’s management. If Roy is unable to maintain a certain level of play due to his health, the Timberwolves could potentially use their amnesty clause on him.
Roy, averaging a career 19 points per game, was entering his prime two years ago as the Portland Trailblazers’ undisputed leader, before being derailed by a degenerative knee condition. His final season with the Blazers was comprised of limited playing time and frustrating performances for a player who was once heralded as the best shooting guard in the Western Conference not named Kobe Bryant.
However, the season also ended with one of the most memorable playoff comebacks in Blazer history against the Suns, orchestrated almost solely by Roy. It was a flash of his former brilliance which had Portland fans pining for the return of their superstar’s old form, and kept Roy in the backs of any potential NBA General Managers looking to improve their team via Free Agency.
Minnesota saw just such an opportunity.
Asked about his performance in Friday’s game, Roy said “I think as far as playing I feel good, but it’s just getting the legs back.” As far Roy’s talent goes, there is no cause for Minnesota’s staff to be concerned. Roy provides the Timberwolves with exactly what a promising young team needs: veteran leadership and a strong locker room presence. Roy’s ability to handle the ball, make plays, and draw defenses should take pressure off young, second-year point guard Ricky Rubio and franchise bigman Kevin Love, particularly late in games when Roy has proven himself as a capable finisher.
Only time will tell whether Minnesota’s experiment will pay off, but Roy is optimistic about his return, as are his many fans.