The Question of the Hour

Dave,

It seems like the amnesty clause and a tougher luxury tax are coming with the new CBA.  Tough decisions are coming for the Blazers.  Are they going to amnesty Roy?  REALLY?  (I don't think they should!)

 This question is like a bad penny.  Every time you think you're rid of it, it shows up in your pocket again.  But it's also the single most debated question in my inbox.

If you're asking if I have inside information, no, I don't.  I don't think this is a widespread organizational decision.  Unless you know what's going on in the mind of Paul Allen the answer is going to remain unclear.  I have a pretty good guess what's going to happen but that doesn't help any more than asking a girl if she'll marry you and hearing "yes" from a third party.  We'll only know for sure when Allen speaks. Understanding the position the Blazers are in will help frame the choice, though.

Have you ever watched poker on TV?  Sometimes you'll see a guy shove in most of his chips early because he thinks he has the best hand.  Then as the cards are revealed and his opponent plays it dawns on him that, outside of a miracle, he's going to lose here.  You kind of see him looking sick, staring at the enormous pot in the middle and a small stack of his remaining chips.  The river card is all that's left.  His opponent just put him all-in.  What is he going to do?  If he folds he's protected his remaining assets but he probably doesn't have enough chips left to make a credible comeback.  If he shoves all-in he gets to see that last card in case the miracle happens but he's almost certainly going to lose those chips and the game.

That's exactly the situation the Blazers are in with Brandon Roy.  They committed an enormous pile of chips to the pot with his max contract.  When his knee cards were dealt it was brick, brick, brick.  No help on the turn either.  Now they have to decide if they're going to stay the course and commit all their chips to him, hoping for the miracle recovery, or whether to "fold" by amnesticizing him.

I'm no Storyteller, but even my rudimentary math skills allow me to calculate that keeping Roy is going to cost the Blazers approximately a million-billion dollars, provided they want to re-sign any of their promising youngsters or (if possible) bring any other talent on board.  The aggregate sum of the contracts determine the tax burden, but Roy is the biggest chunk of that sum and the most pivotal.  The decision to keep him will either cost you money or players.

I'm no doctor either, but the Blazers aren't sounding or acting like Roy's knees are coming back.  Keeping him probably isn't going to be worth the cost.

I can tell you that in the absence of Roy, Portland's backcourt looks pretty pedestrian.  People in Portland are going to like Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews...especially Matthews.  But you'd need a bucket full of elite players in the frontcourt to get anywhere truly special with that pair.  They'll help for sure, but they'll not lead you there.

Every other team in the league carries a huge advantage over Portland when it comes to Roy.  The Blazers have to pay him, making him a bad risk.  Other teams only have to give him the minimum if Portland lets him go, making him one of the most attractive players around.

So here the Blazers sit.  If they go all-in  they're probably out of the tournament.  If they fold they're probably out of the tournament, just more slowly.  All the other players at the table hold the advantage over them.  And Portland folks are still asking, "What's the winning move here?"

There's probably not a winning move here.  Either choice bites, just in different ways.  That's the reality of Portland's situation.  The only way out is if they push all-in with Roy, retaining him, and then the case ace of healed knees comes up to win them the pot.  Outside of that, the story here is that the Blazers got their aces cracked.  They didn't make the wrong play initially.  The cards went south on them.  No matter which way you twist their current hand that story is going to remain the same.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

P.S.  I understand some are asking whether the Blazers will have to make this decision right away.  They probably won't if reports about the time frame of the amnesty clause are correct.  Neither does our poker player have to make a decision until somebody calls time on him.  But all the staring in the world won't change the cards.  Waiting to see Roy play again makes sense but it's still a form of hoping that miracle case ace shows up on the board.

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