We are discussing all these free agent “options” for the Clippers. A small handful of which are out of their price range, and one or two might be worthy of the Mid-Level exception, but the majority are guys that really aren’t worth, based on talent, the small amount of money they have to offer.
And then there is Brandon Roy.
He resides in a class of his own — nothing like the others because they can afford him, even though he has All-NBA talent. No one his age (27), with his pedigree, should be available on the market for the veteran’s minimum or close to it, but because of a tragic history of knee trouble, he is.
After spending a year in retirement, he says he’s ready to return. Only time will tell if that’s true. But he can’t go back to the Blazers, per the conditions of the Amnesty Clause they used to rid themselves of the three years and $49 million left on his max contract, so he will become an unrestricted free agent and give it a try with someone else.
Should the Clippers be the team to offer the opportunity? And if they were, would he be willing to accept it?
Without knowing the medicals, it’s difficult to answer. And even knowing what we do know — he has no meniscus in either knee, meaning that with every step bone grinds against bone — it’s still impossible to tell the difference between what’s possible and what’s tolerable. And for those of us who don’t have to endure the kind of pain one can only imagine a player with his condition would, we have no way of knowing how productive an NBA player can be under the circumstances.
The last we saw him was the 2010-11 season, in which he missed 35 games and started only 23 of the 47 in which he did play. While the Blazers managed his playing time in an attempt to preserve their star — by playing him, keeping him out of practice, resting him, starting him, bringing him off the bench, sitting him out entirely — his condition, and his play, deteriorated. But as he looks to return a year later, there is some reason to believe he has something left in the tank.
As John Canzano of The Oregonian points out, there were more factors at work causing him to hang ’em up for a year than just the knees.
I didn’t believe for a second that he was done playing when he announced his retirement in training camp in December. To sit out the season and gain his freedom as a free agent felt like a brilliant strategic play by Roy and his agent, Greg Lawrence. Well-played, fellas.
Not sure if Portland fans should feel jilted or just admire the move and keep rooting for Roy, who is now an unrestricted free agent. Because a big piece of this charade was forced by the Blazers, who learned of his bone-on-bone knee issues, doubted he could stay healthy, and badly wanted out of his maximum contract.
Roy and his agent knew the Blazers were in deep discussions about using the Amnesty Clause on the three-time All-Star. I was told by an insider that the team had already made up its mind. Amnesty would pay Roy every penny of his salary but give the Blazers cap and luxury tax relief.
Roy and his agent knew a shortened NBA season, with so many back-to-backs, was unfavorable for him. They understood that if he faced the waiver wire he was liable to be snatched up by Minnesota, which was salivating over the idea.
…The Blazers forced Roy’s hand. We all knew it. And Roy chose retirement.
Canzano seems to suggest that Roy could have played this year, but more importantly, he’s ready to contribute to a contender now. Now, Canzano is no doctor, but he is intimately familiar with Roy and the Blazers.
Roy recently tweeted “Everything’s good,” and, “health is good.”
Even if that’s only partially true, that’s big for whichever team signs him. Because, as Ben Golliver so beautifully wrote, he could really cook.
This is a guy whose first five seasons in the NBA were most similar to Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton, and Dwyane Wade.
When asked in 2010 who the toughest player to guard in the Western Conference was, Kobe Bryant said: “Roy 365 days, seven days a week. Roy has no weaknesses in his game.”
He was one of the best, and beyond that, he possessed that special quality that even many of the great players lack. We tend to assign the term “winner” with a healthy dose of revisionism, but anyone who watched Roy knew what was happening when they saw it.
As Canzano wrote: “He was the guy who led Portland out of five-straight lottery appearances, and shifted the direction of the locker room, and reminded us all, ‘Stay humble,’ with that little yellow Post-It note in his locker. He won games. He gave you thrills, and he was a true leader. Things always felt secure with the ball in Roy’s hands.”
They gave up half their roster to acquire one of the few others who fits that description just a season ago, but the Clippers, as always, could certainly use more stability, both on the court and in the locker room.
Even though Chris Paul has meniscus issues of his own, they are not nearly as advanced as Roy’s, which is why Roy would probably play for the Bi-Annual exception of $1.957 million — perhaps even for the veteran’s minimum.
Because he is so competitive, and because he’ll be paid like a max player for two more years no matter what, we assume he’ll want to play for a contender. The Clippers would loosely fit into that category.
He’s not coming back to ride the pine, either. He sounds optimistic about his health, and this is the same guy who had real trouble accepting a diminished role with Portland. After playing seven minutes and 59 seconds in Game 2 against the Mavs two years ago, he said: “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little hurt, or disappointed, but the biggest thing is to keep moving, to try and keep my spirits up. But it’s tough man. I just …. I just always thought I would be treated better. That was a little disappointing for me.”
He wants to play. The Clippers do not have a shooting guard on their roster — unless they want to start Eric Bledsoe, but let’s not get into that. They don’t have the cap space to sign one outright that is likely to represent much of an improvement over what they had last year, unless they make moves that are likely to hamper them elsewhere.
We really don’t know what kind of player Brandon Roy will be going forward, nor do we know how much more forward he’ll go. For all we know, he could show up to training camp and go back into retirement on the first day. I certainly can’t imagine how those knees must feel. But like last year’s low-risk gamble, Chauncey Billups, Roy has always relied on an “old man” type of game that you’d figure could adapt to declining athleticism, as long as he can take it.
For roughly the same price as Sergio Rodriguez, the Clippers could extend an offer to Roy that may very well provide him with everything he’s looking for. He’d have an opportunity to form the silkiest, smoothest, most competitive and most meniscus-deprived backcourt in the league with Chris Paul, on a near-contender that could use his help getting all the way there, but wouldn’t be asking him to do too much.
He’d get every chance to start, and without the inherent pressure and risk of a long-term max contract, he’d have the authority to sacrifice his own future for immediate gain. It’s all up to him, but from the Clippers’ end, bringing in a player — a person — of his caliber has to be worth a shot.