Brandon Roy’s Remarkable Comeback Story

The story every basketball fan will be talking about this season is Brandon Roy’s return to the NBA.

Less than a year ago, on December 10, 2011, Roy retired from the NBA due to issues with his knees despite being only 27-years-old. Instead of entering his prime, health issues forced him to limp away from the game he loved.

What made Roy’s decision to retire surprising is that it came on the heels of an epic game in the playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks where he lifted his team to victory after overcoming a 23-point deficit.

Roy came through in the fourth quarter and put his team on his back with 18 points.

Roy averaged a career-low 12.2 points in 43 games his final season with Portland, but there were glimpses of what he could still do on the court. But if you look back at what Roy went through with his knees there was little doubt he was making the right decision to retire prior to the start of last season. Portland’s team doctors removed cartilage in Roy’s left knee before the 2008-09 seasn, he had surgery for a slight meniscus tear in April of 2010, and in January of 2011 he had arthroscopic surgery on each knee.

It was the arthroscopic surgery that essentially sucked the life out of his knees and temporarily ended his NBA career. When Roy attempted to return to the court following that surgery he would have his knees balloon up and his minuted were limited.

Throw in the fact that his knees would making snapping and popping noises due to the bone rubbing on bone, and it was clear his body was no longer appeared able to withstand the rigors of an NBA season.

How did Roy get his knees back to being able to endure the rigors of the NBA? He took a leap of faith and tried out a medical process similar to what Kobe Bryant did in Germany.

However, instead of flying to Germany, Roy met with the medical staff at LifeSpan Medicine in Los Angeles. The medical procedure is known as Regenokine and is something that is used to help with joint pain.

The funny thing is this procedure is something that seniors use to deal with joint inflammation and arthritis. Not exactly the kind of medical procedure an elite athlete would normally look at, but for Roy, it was just what his body needed. He still deals with the pain of bone rubbing against bone in his knees, but he no longer had the swelling that limited his ability to perform at a high level during the end of his time playing for Portland.

Watching Roy limp around Minnesota’s locker room on Sunday was painful to watch – and that was before the game. After the game the limp was even more pronounced.

Still, even though Roy walks with a limp, he was unable to stay away from the game he loves.

After a few months of playing with Seattle’s “Home Team” this summer and getting his competitive juices flowing again, on July 6, 2012, Roy agreed to join the Minnesota Timberwolves and his comeback story officially began.

“The biggest thing from playing with those guys (in Seattle) is they are all pros,” Roy explained. “You can play against your friends but it you obviously have to play against guys who are at the highest level of basketball. Playing with those guys all summer long gave me the confidence to believe I can get back out there and play in the NBA.

“It was a long grind with some ups and downs with mentally preparing and trying to commit to making a comeback in the NBA. But the basketball was great and those guys were really good with making sure they were getting in the gym with me as much as possible so that I could build my confidence.”

The signing was met by jubilation by die-hard NBA fans, but for Roy, he was happy to become just another player on an NBA roster.

A big reason why Minnesota was a great fit for Roy is because he would no longer have to shoulder the burden of being the focal point of the offense. In Minnesota, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will share that burden when they are healthy.

Now Roy is free to play the game he loves in whatever role the team needs from him and his game has grown, adapted and changed.

“The biggest difference is I have to smarter out there on the court,” Roy admitted. “I don’t want to go into too much about how things changed because I don’t want people guarding me differently. The biggest thing is trying to stay healthy and put my injuries behind me. I need to be as aggressive as I can while I’m out there on the court.”

Even though Roy isn’t the same player he was from an athletic standpoint, he is still getting respect from players and coaches around the NBA.

“He (still) knows how to play,” Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey boasted. “He does it with his brain now more so than his athleticism. He has always been a floor type player and he is doing even more now as far as knowing where to be or how to trick you and get you in the air.”

Through his first two games, Roy is only averaging 26 minutes and 7.0 points, but he is content just to be back in the NBA.

“You always have that goal as a kid to play in the NBA and once players get to the NBA, I don’t think they take it for granted, but at the same time they start to have a sense of entitlement once they are there,” Roy said. “Me being out for a year I think I got that appreciation back just for playing the game that I’ve love for my entire life. So now when I go out there on the court, no matter what is going on, I just try and go out there and enjoy it and make the most of every moment I get to play this game.”

Roy isn’t the only one smiling as basketball fans are relishing the chance to watch him play in the NBA again this season.

Hopefully Roy doesn’t need to announce his retirement from the NBA anytime soon.

Wolves Face Difficult Decision With Beasley

Last season, Michael Beasley arrived in Minnesota with no expectations. Cast off from the Heat in order to make room for LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Beasley was acquired for just a second round draft pick by Wolves GM David Kahn. Placed in a situation without expectations, and without the pressures of being the number two pick in the 2008 draft, Beasley began to thrive.

In November and December, Beasley averaged well over 20 points per game, shooting nearly 48% from the field. Speculation began to run rampant, as experts and fans wondered if he was finally going to produce at the level that was expected of him. Had a change of scenery turned Michael Beasley into an All-Star? It seemed too good to be true.

As with most cases of small sample sizes and inflated expectations, it was.

Beasley brought several positives to the Wolves. He was one of the best (and only) three point shooters on the team this season, and aside from Barea, Beasley was the only other Timberwolf who could create his own shot off the dribble. But he struggled this year especially, failing to fit into Rick Adelman’s free flowing offensive stylings.

A natural ball-stopper, Beasley settled for mid-range jumpers on 38% of his shots, shooting just 40% from that range. His health was also a problem, as he missed 19 games due to foot and toe injuries. Midway through the season, Beasley lost his role as a starter to an ever changing cast of characters, including the equally disappointing Wes Johnson.

As Beasley’s production waned, so did his minutes. In March, Beasley topped 20 minutes in just two games, and though some of his games were limited by injuries, some were limited by general ineffectiveness.

There is a significant chance that Michael Beasley has played his final game in Minnesota. He is a restricted free agent, but since the Wolves own his option, they may choose to pick up the $8.1 million price tag that Beasley carries, or let him become an unrestricted free agent and try his luck elsewhere.

So Minnesota is left with a difficult decision: should they give Beasley one more year, one more chance to reach his considerable potential? Would a full length season with real practices and real coaching from Rick Adelman, a coach famous for getting the most out of his players, help Beasley become the offensive force that he could be?
Or should the Wolves pass on Beasley, clearing salary space to try and lure more established talent? Minnesota has an attractive package to offer an incoming shooting guard or small forward, boasting a solid core of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic. The Wolves visibly enjoyed themselves playing with Rubio, a trait which could attract a talented player.

Conventional wisdom says that the Wolves will let Beasley walk. They have invested two years into resurrecting his career, and while their efforts haven’t been a total loss (Beasley averaged 19 points per game in 2010), the clock is ticking for Minnesota. Kevin Love has two years left before he can decide whether or not to pick up the player option on his contract. He will want to see results from the Wolves if they want to keep him. Minnesota needs a sure thing, a proven star.

Beasley, though dripping with potential and raw talent, is far from proven. And while his career is far from over, his time in Minneapolis has probably drawn to a close.

Minnesota Timberwolves Season Review

It’s hard not to look at Minnesota’s 2011-2012 season and imagine what could have been.

When Ricky Rubio went down for the year, the Wolves were in 8th place in the Western Conference and were surging forward. Behind Rubio’s artistry and basketball IQ, Kevin Love’s arrival as a genuine superstar, and, most improbably, Nikola Pekovic’s emergence as a productive offensive and defensive force, Minnesota was on the fast track to their first playoff appearance since 2004.

Head coach Rick Adelman built an offense around his best players, a revelation for the Timberwolves who spent the past three years shackled by Kurt Rambis’ triangle offense, a disaster for the personnel on the roster. Adelman’s guidance, along with player development, turned the Wolves into a tough, competitive team.

But Rubio crumpled to the floor on March 9, tearing his ACL late in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. His was the beginning of a veritable parade of injuries throughout the end of the season that quickly knocked Minnesota out of playoff contention. Timberwolves players missed over 160 games combined due to injuries, including key contributors like Michael Beasley, Luke Ridnour, JJ Barea, Pekovic, and Love, who missed the last seven games of the season after being concussed by an inadvertent elbow from Denver’s JaVale McGee.

But while Timberwolves nation understandably mourns the loss of yet another snakebitten season, an optimistic observer sees hope in the coming months. Not the usual abstract, conditional hope that Minnesotans are used to, a hope to see players pan out who never cease to disappoint, but real, tangible evidence of a bright future on the horizon.

Rubio’s injury was devastating to be sure, both to the young point guard as a player, and a team that was starting to gel. But the floppy haired Spaniard will return, and his game was never built on his athleticism. Rather, it was built on his incredible ability to see a basketball court as a chess board, thinking three steps ahead of the opposition, and on his long, rangy arms that filled passing lines and disrupted opposing point guards.

Love proved himself to be a go-to scorer, as well as an elite rebounder. In his highest scoring season yet, Love averaged 26 points per game, and kept his name alive in MVP debates until he was sidelined. His post game was noticeably better than last season, and he made 105 three point field goals in 55 games. Love’s defense, though still merely average, also improved under Adelman’s tutelage.

With two young stars like Love and Rubio, and an emerging post presence in Pekovic, it’s easy to imagine that the Wolves could acquire the players necessary to make a legitimate run to the postseason next year. The first priority will be to sign or trade for some reliable wing players. Wolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda recently reported that Minnesota had a chance to trade for Andre Iguodala last year just before the draft, but turned down the deal. A similar marquee wing star could help turn the Wolves around.

And perhaps, this time next year, Minnesota’s season won’t be over.