So, you've all heard the news by now that--unless the Blazers execute a highly unlikely trade somewhere along the line or pick up stakes and become the Tuscaloosa Tumbleweeds--Brandon Roy is going to be a Portland Trail Blazer for the next five years minimum and probably six. Though overwhelmingly expected, it's still a joy. Obviously it's a serious boon from the talent standpoint. Few would argue that Roy is the best overall player on the team right now. Few would argue that he's encroached upon the league's elite, leapfrogging several young players with better scoring averages but nowhere near the all-around game or win production. But this contract means more to the team than that. The Blazers also acquire several other things as the ink dries.
Brandon knows he's going to be a Blazer through his prime and, provided he plays well and the team continues winning, quite possibly for the rest of his career. There are no more doubts or distractions. That stability trickles down to the rest of the team as well. We saw what happened during the Whitsitt years when 1/3-1/2 of the team recycled routinely every season. Great players became good players in that system. In a practical sense it took guys three months to get used to each other. In an emotional/psychological sense you were always looking over your shoulder, wondering which guys were going next. It was like a guy who dates six good-looking girls at once. Sure he's got moves and yeah he's fun to watch, but you can never get serious with him. The Blazers just got married. You know who's going to be the heart of this team today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future. This is now a team you can bank on and invest in.
That stability carries with it a fixed identity, not just that Brandon is the team captain, but that his game will define the team's. This is going to be an efficient offensive machine, capable of scoring in multiple ways and willing to share the ball. That's not only who Brandon is, that's what the team values and is built on. This is a mature team, a settled team, a team focused on winning that won't put up with crap or contrary agendas. This just became Brandon Roy's squad officially. He is the face of the franchise. This is a victory not only for him, but his style of play and way of handling himself.
Hand in hand with all this comes respect. Obviously the team is showing Brandon respect by committing over $80 million to him. But this contract also earns him the respect of his peers, not only those currently in the locker room but those who might come along in the future. Money is part of the NBA culture. Everybody wants it. When you get maxed out you become the guy everybody wants to be. When you talk, nobody can speak against you. You can't be called into question on your game because it was good enough to get that contract. You can't be threatened because you have nothing to lose anymore. If you had to walk away tomorrow you'd walk away set for life. Roy was already the king of the hill because of his play, attitude, and leadership skills. This provides the final missing piece. He has arrived in every way possible.
The Blazers knew the score exactly when they agreed to this deal. They might as well have turned to Brandon and hung a flashing neon sign around his neck saying, "LEADER". Unlike their last big-time deal (cough, Z-Bo, cough) they didn't do it hoping Roy would grow into that role. They did it because Roy had already assumed that role. This wasn't a gamble. This was the official crowning of the king. There could not be a bigger affirmation.
A Break From the Past, Entry Into the Future
In crowning le Roy nouveau the Blazers have rid themselves of the stigma of having Zach Randolph as the highest paid player in Blazers history. They weren't up nights worrying about that distinction, of course, but the symbolism is strong nonetheless. This is the official break with everything that came before. This is the official start of the new era. Some will point to the 2006 draft in which Brandon was selected, but the resources you commit to a draft pick, even the 6th overall pick, are modest and pre-determined. Selecting Roy was the Blazers choice, of course, and there was some risk involved. But they were going to select somebody in that draft, commit those resources, and take that chance. This is the first major, intentional commitment we've seen from the team to the era we've been forecasting for three years now. $80 million is a huge investment. A max contract is a huge statement for all the reason we just listed along with the financial aspect. If you blow this you poison and hamstring your franchise, as we've seen first-hand. Somebody somewhere believes in this kid and is confident that he's going to lead this team to amazing things. This is the franchise's confirmation that everything you've been dreaming about could well come true.
This is a big day for Brandon. It's a big day for the Blazers and their fans as well. We know you've been here three years already, but it feels like time to say again, "Welcome, Brandon Roy!" If we were going to max out someone, I think we're all glad it was you. Congratulations to Brandon, the team, and everyone who gets to watch them.