Wolves, Roy back to future - with a wary eye on knees

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 1, 2012 - 9:11 AM

The ex-Blazers star, who was traded by the Wolves on draft day six years ago, has arrived at his original destination.

Brandon Roy on Tuesday left the Timberwolves cap that he wore so briefly so long ago back home in his mother's Seattle living room, but he officially, finally returned six years later to the NBA franchise that drafted him.

"Better late than never," said David Kahn, Wolves president of basketball operations, kicking off a Target Center news conference that introduced Roy.

Roy made three NBA All-Star Games in five seasons after the Wolves drafted him sixth overall in 2006 and then quickly traded him to Portland for Randy Foye and a big chunk of Blazers owner Paul Allen's cash.

Now he is back to the place he never really was, intending to resume a career that temporarily ended for a season because of a degenerative condition that has left him with no cartilage in either knee.

Declaring himself rested and ready, Roy is back after a season away and after undergoing the same medical procedure that gave Kobe Bryant's knee relief.

He is optimistic his knees -- they can't be repaired, but the platelet-rich plasma therapy reduces swelling and provides pain relief -- will allow him to withstand the grind of an 82-game NBA season, plus playoffs.

But will he ever be great again?

"Yeah, that's the goal," Roy said. "That's the whole reason I'm coming back. I told David when we met that 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 a 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."

Roy retired last December, when the Blazers exercised a one-time-only "amnesty" clause on Roy that allowed them to pay him the remaining $63 million on his contract and wipe that huge sum from their salary-cap books once he sat out a season.

In retrospect, Roy suggests it was a decision prompted by a team doctor who recommended it was best for Roy and his damaged knees. It also was in the Blazers' best financial interests as well.

"It was never really officially my decision to retire, you know?" he said. "It was never a situation where I said, 'I'm done forever.' It's just more of a pause."

Just to be sure it was only a pause, Roy worked out privately for two months last winter before he quietly put out feelers to NBA teams that he might be interested in a comeback. He underwent the therapy in Los Angeles in May and worked out with Wolves assistant coach Bill Bayno -- a Blazers assistant for four of Roy's seasons in Portland -- there for three days in June.

Kahn and R.J. Adelman, director of player personnel, watched one of those workouts, and came away convinced the 28-year-old is worth gambling a protected two-year contract that will pay $5 million this season.

If he's healthy, Roy will address the Wolves' needs for a legitimately sized shooting guard and for a veteran who's eager and capable of having the ball in his hands at the end of games. Either way, his experience and veteran demeanor will help a young team in the locker room.

"The explosion is still there, that quick first step," Bayno said. "The big test will be over 82 games. Will the pain come back? How does the knee hold up? He's convinced he'll be fine."

Roy chose to sign with the Wolves after talking with at least four other NBA teams. Wolves owner Glen Taylor flew with Kahn and coach Rick Adelman on Taylor's private jet to Seattle for a lengthy meeting with Roy and his agent and continued to court him after that.

Roy's relationship with Bayno and former Blazers star Terry Porter, a Wolves assistant coach, helped him feel comfortable. NBA personnel urged him to play for Adelman if he got the chance.

And the Wolves offered a role as big as Roy is physically able to handle.

Kahn said the team and Roy have agreed that he'll start and play 30 minutes or more a game if he shows in training camp that he can do that.

"They just really believed in me," Roy said. "And I wanted to be part of a team I can really assist and help take that next step."

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