There's a lot of Brandon Roy talk out there this week, to put it mildly.
There's genuine angst over comments he made after Monday night's loss, where he apparently shirked responsibility and called into question the offense and his backcourt pairing with Andre Miller. There's confusion about his hit-or-miss play and his health status. There's even speculation about Roy's mental health.
Allow me to make a few general observations regarding Roy that will eventually tie together to make a greater point.
When judging what comes out of Roy's mouth, always keep in mind the entirety of his situation. This is a top-flight athlete who was on a Hall of Fame track, a player who now no longer trusts his body and is forced to completely re-evaluate his self perception, goals and future. You can almost always draw a direct line between on-court performance and off-court mood. As such, mood can vacillate like a Richter scale in the blink of an eye. That effect is only more pronounced given Roy's injury struggles. You've read the up-and-down quotes. One day he feels like a world-killer who doesn't need any restrictions. The next he feels tweaks that limit everything he wants to do. If his statements lack consistency or clarity, that shouldn't come as a surprise. And, if you're prepared for them, they shouldn't evoke anger.
When assessing Roy's prescriptions for solving the team's problems or changing the team's offense, remember that NBA players are human beings, and as such are more likely to remember their best performances, inflate their average performances, and forget or downplay their worst performances. When NBA players, like all human beings, meet adversity, they are more likely to envision solutions that include them rather than solutions that don't include them, and they are more likely to see (and occasionally point out in public) faults in others rather than faults in themselves. When things get really ugly, absent of quick fixes, NBA players, like all human beings, aren't above fantasizing about better days in the past. This is one of the main reasons coaches exist: to balance the various perspectives in the locker room and craft a workable solution that everyone can buy into.
With that background laid, here are a few other points that need to be made.
Roy doesn't have the answers. It's been clear on the court and it's even more clear in his off-court statements. He doesn't know how to fix this team, the problems run too deep. What isn't as clear is whether he knows that he doesn't know. His statements sometimes suggest he gets that a new direction is needed and his statements sometimes reflect a desire to return to the good old days.
That contradiction is maddening. How does Roy expect to achieve his goal of evolving as a player if his focus is getting back to a 2008 version of himself which is irretrievable? How does he expect a Blazers team to function going forward if he, a major player, is looking backwards? That's a question that needs to be asked of Roy, in private, by team decision-makers, if it hasn't been asked already. What's done is done. Steve Blake isn't walking through that door. Travis Outlaw isn't walking through that door.
It's safe to say that Roy's opinions carry less influence within the organization today than they did a year ago. No one will put that between quotation marks but it isn't a great mystery: players carry as much weight in an organization as their play and future dictate. Once Roy was doubly locked in -- to a long-term contract and to injury issues that make him virtually untradeable for at least the next two years -- his leverage deteriorated. The longer he plays inconsistently and produces inefficiently, the less the front office needs to be concerned with making Roy happy and the more it can be concerned with what will produce the best future, regardless of any other conditions. Make no mistake: that future will include Roy, he's not going anywhere. But Roy, much like Rudy Fernandez earlier this season, will eventually, whether this season or next, have to get on board with whatever management dictates. That's a process that may take some time to sink in for Roy, who has wielded significant influence throughout his early Blazers career, but it's the hard truth. Roy the superstar captains the ship; Roy the semi-star is along for the ride, not just on the court, or in the rotations, but in the roster-building boardroom too.
Given the situation laid out above -- that Roy is struggling with health issues, that his public statements are inconsistent, that his play is no longer effective enough to bank on from a long-term pespective, that he isn't capable of providing a realistic or workable alternative to the team's current struggles -- the value of Roy's public words has never been lower. Again, that may sound harsh, but it should be true. Would you be better served to ignore 90% of the things that come out of Roy's mouth between now and the all star break? Probably, especially if the nature of his comments upsets you. Right now, for all of the reasons listed, it's a lot of hot air. By ignoring it, you sacrifice very little.
The person you should be listening to is Blazers coach Nate McMillan, to see whether his plans shift and how those shifts include (or don't include) Roy. To date, McMillan has been extremely quiet on any long-term or macro issues. Will that change?
Read his relative silence to this point as you like. I read it as buying time. Something like: I can't count on Roy to make this happen as the centerpiece right now, but I also can't really count on anyone else, and if I push too hard to test a new path it will make life with Roy more difficult than it's worth, especially because there's a slight glimmer that somehow Roy can magically resurrect himself.
That stance is understandable but unfortunate, because it leaves the team and its fanbase in eternal limbo, waiting and waiting and waiting for whatever is supposed to come next, whether that's rebuilding, re-tooling, rebounding or re-shaping.
And that brings us, finally, to the other person you should be listening to: Blazers GM Rich Cho. Assessing the incentives of all the involved parties, no one has a greater motivation to figure out what the future will look like than Cho. Roy is getting paid regardless. McMillan may or may not be here next season. Cho, though, is in this for the long haul and is therefore looking to make this roster and franchise his own. He should realize the value in helping shape public sentiment as there is ample evidence this could be a bumpy ride.
Instead, a frustrated, confused player and a lame duck coach are setting the agenda and putting off today's problem until tomorrow, respectively. Pats on the back from Blazers president Larry Miller to McMillan and to the players for their effort despite the losing simply aren't a sufficient management response.
Winning cures all and silences most critics. But losing cannot be met with blanket silence from management, not in this city. And that's a bigger problem than anything coming out of Brandon Roy's mouth.
Blazers fans want to buy in. Whether that's hope, or patience, or Wesley Freaking Matthews. But they won't buy in to bickering and they won't buy in to a lack of direction. The increasing number of empty seats are already talking.
It's past time that Rich Cho politely asks Brandon Roy to pass the mic.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter