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Brandon Roy & the Five Stages of Grief

You've heard of the "Five Stages of Grief": denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance.  I submit that Brandon Roy, the Blazers' organization, and Blazer fans are in various stages of this process with regard to the condition of Brandon Roy's knees and the implications of their condition for the Portland Trailblazers going forward.

The most predominant stage I'm seeing at this point is denial.  That was on glorious display last night on Courtside.  For those of you who missed it or haven't heard about it: a parade of guests--President Larry Miller, GM Rich Cho, coach Nate McMillan, player LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as each of the hosts, spent the bulk of the show insisting that the Blazers aren't better right now without Brandon Roy.  They seemed to believe that if they repeated the mantra often enough--and Roy just got another week or so of rest--meniscus would magically reappear in Roy's knees and he'd be his old self again.

Apparently the Courtside crowd were having a little trouble convincing themselves, though.  Because an equally ludicrous assertion crept in at times: that, if indeed Roy's knees are shot, he can still play a major role with the team.  Rice stated to Nate--though it sounded more like a fervent prayer--that Roy was flexible enough to fit into the Blazers' current uptempo rhythm.  And Nate concurred, even maintaining that Roy wasn't actually slowing the team down: it was the group he typically played with.  We heard that one a few times.  LMA went further, chuckling at the notion that Brandon Roy should have to 'fit in" to what his teammates are doing.  LMA said that's ridiculous: after all, the Blazers are Roy's team.

Which of course, gets to the crux of the problem.  The Blazers might be able to work around Brandon Roy's gimpy condition.  He could still possibly play a marginal role as an instant offense/marginal defense guy off the bench--a hobbled Vinnie Johnson.  But that would require all concerned accepting that yesterday's all-star is now a marginal NBA player and dropping their deference to him.  And clearly that's going to take more time.  There's those five steps, you see.

Of course this is understandable;  it would be unseemly to dump the franchise savior in the garbage the moment his usefulness ends.  As Miller put it, you can't just forget what Brandon Roy contributed to the Portland Trailblazers.  The unstated message: it would be better to sacrifice a season--to let the state of affairs gradually sink in and become undeniable to one and all, as Roy kills the team's emergent new chemistry and the losses mount.  Then the symbol of the Blazers' changed culture can finally be relegated to the bench or--dream of dreams--convinced to take a medical retirement.

Considering all that Brandon Roy did for the Blazers' franchise, some might find this approach acceptable.  It isn't like the Blazers have a shot at the title this season anyway, and there's always the lottery.  But there's more at stake than the '10-11 season.  The window of opportunity to trade Brandon Roy is shrinking very, very fast.  Right now there may be a few GMs in the league who share the Blazers' denial.  They can't entirely accept that Roy has gone from all-star to nearly useless so quickly.   They may convince themselves that the Blazers are making a mistake: that if their team gets ahold of Roy and gives him the proper rest & treatment, he'll return to form.  Remember, some NBA GM's are desperate--and, frankly, dumb. 

But as this season wears on and Roy goes thru this cycle a couple more times--poor play followed by recuperation followed by a game or two of improved play before tweaking the knee again--his trade value will plummet all the way to zero.  Then the Blazers will be truly and completely screwed for the length of Roy's max contract.

To avert this scenario, the Blazers' brass must work thru the stages of grief in record time and get to an acceptance of the situation.  Unfortunately, I see no signs of that happening.  Of course, it's possible that's a smokescreen.  Maybe Miller, Cho, et al are just being crafty--denying Roy's true condition publicly while working feverishly behind the scenes to unload him.  Hope springs eternal...

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