The feeling you got listening to Brandon Roy talk at his press conference today was that, in his mind, he was never really retired. Last season was a hiatus.
Actually, his word was pause.
Pause here, for a moment. Kent Youngblood here, giving you a quick summary of today's happenings while Jerry Zgoda prepares his insightful story for tomorrow's paper. Until he finishes you'll have to be content with my ramblings.
But back to that one-year "retirement." Roy, who was officially introduced to the Twin Cities media today, was asked early about his decision to step away from the game a year ago because of knee pain, and his decision to return this season.
He made it very clear that the decision to leave the game wasn't entirely his. I think this is interesting, just because of the emotion I believe he'll bring to his return to the league and the level of motivation he will have.
Here is Roy talking about that decision to retire after beginning his career in Portland: "It was never really officially my decision to retire," he said. "You know, the process in Portland, I met with the team doctor and we talked for a while. We have a really good relationship. He's been the guy who worked with me for five years, with my knees. I went in for my physical, and he said he thought it would be in my best interests to stop playing basketball."
Roy's point was that Portland was driving the train when it came to the decision. After five seasons with the Blazers, because of the chronic knee problems, the Blazers used the amnesty clause on the remainder of his contract with the team.
In retrospect, missing last season's condensed post-lockout schedule might have been the best thing for Roy.
Here's more Roy: "For me it was never, 'I'm retired,' " he said. "I knew, with my knees, I'd have to decide whether I wanted to continue playing. And just after a few months of sitting out, I decided, "Hey, I don't want to stop playing basketball.' It was never a situation where I said, 'I'm done forever.' It's just more of a pause."
So Roy rested, then started working out. When that went well, he had the Regokine treatment on his knees, the same treatment Kobe Bryant had. "I'm not saying I'm Kobe Bryant, but my body felt really good," he said. "I've been working out ever since, and there hasn't' been any swelling. I'm excited to get it done. The main reason for doing it was I wanted to play. I wanted to play."
In the coming weeks and into training camp the big question will be how much and how effectively Roy can play. Personally, I don't think it's important that he play big minutes, or that he starts. I think it's important to have him in the game late. Roy is a closer, and having him on the court down the stretch could be a big deal. He will be a veteran on the floor, a stabilizing factor on a young team.
So why did he choose the Wolves, the team that signed him years ago, but immediately traded him to Portland for the rights to Randy Foye? Roy said he wanted to play for coach Rick Adelman. But he also wanted to join a good team on the rise. "I wanted to be a part of a team I can really assist, and help take that next step," he said. "So I'm excited to be here."
I also think Roy liked the fact that, while being courted by the Wolves, the team didn't come to him with a preconceived notion of what his role would be. Roy's health and his level of play will dictate his role.
Roy said his mom still has the Timberwolves had he was given when drafted back in 2006 and has a picture of him wearing it on draft night. He recounted an anecdote about that night. He was doing interviews talking about how excited he was to be coming to Minnesota when he learned he'd been traded.
It took a while, but he finally made it to Minnesota. But here's another question: can he be great again?
"Yeah, that's the goal," he said. "That's the goal. That's the whole reason I'm coming back. I told David (Kahn, the Wolves' president of basketball operations) when we met. I said, 'I wouldn't be coming back if I didn't think I could reach a high level of basketball.' You say great, I just call it high level. I want to play at a high level. And, right now, my body is giving me all the signs that I can do that."