As the clock wound down on an impressive come-from-behind win for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Brandon Roy was on the sideline watching. He’d spent most of the final quarter – as the Wolves clawed their way back from 22-points down in the third – cheering his teammates on just a few spots down from head coach Rick Adelman. It was unfamiliar territory for a guy so accustomed to having the ball in his hand with the game on the line.
Brandon Roy is no longer the guy from that amazing 2008-09 season though; in his place is a much more hobbled, slower, version that now relies more on basketball nous than his athletic ability. His lateral quickness is almost non-existent (on several occasions tonight he was beaten off the dribble with ease by MarShon Brooks and Joe Johnson), his still moves with that unique jog that isn’t quite running – more like power walking – but even Stevie Wonder can see that his legs drag when he moves.
But, fortunately for Roy and the Timberwolves, that’s not the role he is required to fill on this young Minnesota team. Roy is stepping into a new phase of his career, one that he prepared himself for when he announced he was returning to basketball after his (brief) retirement from the Blazers in 2011. And he’s totally fine with it.
“Understanding that my role would be different, not being an All-Star, not being at that level, it doesn’t mean that my career has to be over. So accepting that was maybe the biggest reason why I was able to come back,” said Roy after the Wolves 107-96 win.
He admits he’s had to alter his playing style, although he doesn’t want to delve too deep into the changes he’s made. “There’s some things that, of course, I have to do differently. I have to be smart and continue trying to be a leader and motivate these guys and motivate myself to just get out there and just fight like we did tonight.”
Many wrote Roy off after his departure from Portland but he says he never really considered it to be a permanent move. “It was always in my mind that I would maybe try to come back. I didn’t ever really think I was done for good but I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t worked out yet. Once I started working out I said ‘you know, this is something I wanna get one more shot at.’ And that way,when I’m 30,40, I know I gave it one more chance.”
Being ‘smart’ aptly describes the crafty Roy’s game with the Wolves. He is fortunate that, despite the absence of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, the onus is not on him to carry the young squad nightly. Instead he is able to play a more cerebral game, getting in where he fits in. Tonight, he was happy to play facilitator, assisting on 7 buckets for Minnesota. He still showed glimpses of his old self – a drive right at the top of the key on Deron Williams, clever pump fake and a classic Roy fade-away for his first points of the game.
Other times his veteran leadership will be essential in mentoring players like Alexey Shved (10 points, 3 assists). “We’re gonna’ need him to play so I just stay in his ear, keep him confident because I can’t play as much as I like so we need him to be able to play big minutes,” muses Brandon.
It’s that maturity that has enabled the 3-time All-Star to come back and accept a ‘lesser role’ with Minnesota. As the season goes on, and Roy gets healthier, the Wolves may call on Roy to deliver as he used to do in Portland. Until then however, he’s happy keeping everything in perspective, grateful that’s even got an opportunity to move forward into this new phase of his career.
“I think understanding that I’m not going to be the player I was, but that doesn’t have to mean my career has to be over. I can still come out and play some effective positive minutes and I’ll be a leader in the locker room, so my perspective has changed. I got more appreciation for just being on the team and being in the NBA.”
Image via : AP