Brandon Roy should not have spoken with reporters about being upset with his lack of playing time after the Blazers Game 2 loss in Dallas. We can all agree on that, right?

Here’s the thing, though. Reading the tweets and comments ripping Roy just didn’t sit right with me. Of course he’s going to get criticized for thinking about himself and his own situation rather than the team’s, but can we stop for a moment and think about the things going through his head right now?

I’m a writer. If I woke up one morning and struggled to piece together even the most basic of sentences, I’d be lost. Entirely, completely, absolutely lost. I’d also be angry, frustrated and likely unbearable for the people closest to me, at least on the bad days. Self-pity isn’t ever a good look, but it’s a real one. Sometimes we succumb. In those weak moments when who we are is challenged by things outside of our control, we sometimes say and do things we shouldn’t.

Brandon Roy is a basketball player. It’s what he’s always been, it’s what he has worked for his entire life. It’s why he’s been the guy for his team and it’s the reason he’s getting paid $13.6 million this season. For him to not be able to be the guy he feels his team needs him to be, to not be able to do the things he’s always done, it’s got to be so tough.

Tough enough for him to give in to self-pity, even momentarily, after a disappointing loss in a series where his team is now down 0-2 in a series against the Mavs? Yes, apparently.

I know that we want to tell Roy he hasn’t been great in his minutes on the floor, that he isn’t the guy he once was, or thought he was, but that’s the hardest thing for an athlete to hear. Besides not wanting to listen, when an athlete publicly admits that they’re not who they want to be, they become a step closer to not being able to get back to where they were. That ego, they need it. Sometimes, at all costs. Sometimes that ego is what makes an athlete able to overcome the stumbles and the roadblocks. It’s a belief in himself that likely got him through the days of working on the Seattle docks with the dream of being an NBA superstar in the back of his mind.

Separating yourself from your team, coaches and organization is never a good thing. Shifting the focus onto yourself is bad at any time, but during the playoffs? Unacceptable. I’m guessing Roy understands this. It’s sort of an unspoken rule.

Just as that’s an unspoken rule, an often unspoken truth is that athletes are vulnerable when they can’t will their bodies to do what they want. Not superhero — nor superstar — tough. Vulnerable. It’s easy for us to hit Twitter and Facebook and go Kanye with our caps lock button shouting “BE BETTER THAN THAT” when we’re not the ones who have been stripped of that which has made us who we’ve spent our entire lives becoming.

This shit is tough.

It’s sad. It’s upsetting. Watching Roy on the basketball floor not looking like himself, then watching him on the bench, struggling with a body that, whether he likes it or not, isn’t allowing him to do what he wants to do, what he feels his team needs him to do, it sucks. It’s been a long season of rest and rehab, of strained play and new situations for Roy.

Being the last man off of the bench? Seems unfathomable when you think of the player he was, only a couple of seasons ago. It’s something he’s going to have to embrace with grace and humility and it’s going to have to happen soon, even if he’s hurting inside.

While we hold him accountable for stepping out of line or speaking out of turn by exposing his true feelings and emotions to the media, let’s also remember this is a guy who only wants to help his team. Even if he isn’t ready to accept, or perhaps is still unable to understand, that his helping might come from the sidelines as much as it used to come from the floor.

I don’t think Roy had any ill intentions when he went into his postgame ramble. I think he had a heavy heart and a busy mind and clouded judgment and he needed to vent. What matters now is how he deals with it.

It’s time to accept accountability. Time to tell his coach that he trusts him to do the job he’s paid to do and time for Roy to be the best damn leader he knows how to be, regardless of whether the number in the minutes played column goes up or down.

Let’s remember he’s human. And humans, we make mistakes. Lots of them, Especially when we’re hurting. Even when we make lots of money and play a game for a living. Even when we’re supposed to be better, supposed to be used to the cameras, supposed to know it’s about more than us and that the game is bigger than us. It happens. What happens next might be the biggest power play of Roy’s playoffs and the ball is in his court.

It was such a short time ago that we believed in Roy so much. If we can’t fully believe and trust that he’ll work his way back to form, maybe we can give him the benefit of the doubt in the aftermath of a loose-lipped scrum at the absolute worst time of the year and believe he’ll work to make up for his mistake.

Comments (19)

  1. Well put. I appreciate this post and agree with you. If you listen to the audio (where the story came from) it definitely sounds as if Brandon was venting his frustration to a friend. Almost as if he forgot a tape recorder was there. Mistake? Yes? Human? Yes.

  2. human or unreasonable? I am going with the latter. no excuse to lose your common sense, it is no secret about his health (knees) and instead of being selfish at a time like this, he should just help any way he can, not by throwing his coach under the bus, who might I add has a pretty solid resume himself.

  3. other than that, this was a good article to read, although I disagree.

  4. When I was 10 years old, I had the opportunity to kick a penalty kick that would have won the league championship for my soccer team. My kick clanged off the crossbar and I collapsed on the field in tears. We went to 1-on-1 penalty kicks after that and somebody else on my team scored the winning goal, but I was still bummed out because I didn’t get to be the hero.

    The point of this anecdote is that I can understand Brandon having a hard time relinquishing his former “hero” status on his team. On the other hand, I was 10 years old and he’s a grown ass man. What he’s going through isn’t much different than what a lot of aging veterans go though in having their roles reduced as their skills deteriorate. Some players cope with it better than others. See: Allen Iverson.

  5. And his weird protracted dislike of Andre Miller…also human, also bunk.

  6. Beautifully written. I was waiting for a post with this exact same opinion, glad you wrote it Holly! I’ll be spreading this link today.

  7. @Scott: If you want to talk about grown ass men, then let’s talk about grown ass realities:
    humans (even adults) have emotions
    athletes are humans under much public scrutiny
    some express their emotions more honestly than others

    I think it’s fair to say that Brandon hasn’t been coping well with his transition to a lesser role, but I think it’s unfair to pretend that emotions somehow vanquish in adulthood, and that a “grown ass man” shouldn’t make a very human mistake. Assuming you are a “grown ass man”, might I suggest you access the adult capacity for compassion?

    From everything I’ve read and from accounts of people closest to Brandon, he is doing his best to find a way to cope with a very painful and difficult situation. That’s hardly Allen Iverson-esque.

  8. It was easy to think he was a likeable guy when he had nothing to complain about. Sometimes you don’t really see someone’s personality until their back is against the wall. Isn’t there a chance that this is just who he is?

  9. Roy’s fall from grace is really depressing. I think people forget how good and crafty he was. There’s a reason Kobe complimented him several times..the guy was a complete player, played smart and didn’t rely on his athlecisim as much as other young stars. He was a joy to watch.

  10. Gotta respect the guy, Madoff’s his way to a max contract (bonky knee sell job) and now the franchise will be crippled until it ends, and yet he can still complain. Sure he’s can’t score anymore and couldn’t defend a tree in the park but complain away B.Roy. It’s good to see the beginning of the end for the Frail Blazers era go out with a whimper, instead of a bang.

  11. Andrei kirilenko situation anyone? Heres your dilemma… When do you unload this ridiculous contract and how with such potential? The jazz didnt, and look where they are.

  12. Thank you for this!

    Brandon’s remarks were the result of poor judgment, yes indeed. His feelings of frustration with his situation aren’t much different than those expressed hourly on blogs like this one —only he doesn’t get to vent anonymously, like we do.

    When your body betrays you as dramatically as Brandon’s has, it often takes *years* to fully adjust to new circumstances. (I can speak to this, having spent a couple years unable to walk or work.) It can’t help but be “all about you,” at least some of the time, and especially when things aren’t going well.

    Brandon has managed to avoid public self-preoccupation to a remarkable degree. For the most part he has voiced a firm commitment to the welfare of the team, and has backed his words with an outstanding effort to adapt himself to a different role. If anybody can pull this off, it’s Brandon Roy.

  13. agh – so many haters in the house.
    nice job holly

  14. It’s one thing to lament a deficit of opportunity, whether or not the belief is that a contribution can be made, it’s quite another to cry maltreatment. The inference is that coach McMillan should be motivated by reasons other than advancing his team’s chances. That’s why the backlash.

  15. I was thinking the same thing, about BROY being human and feeling the emotions. It’s got to be extremely tough. I think that’s why girl fans are so valuable because we can sympathize more and look deeper than his statistical drop-offs. The Blazers want the best line-up they can out on the court now, and Brandon is not currently a part of that. He knows that. Fans should not be even more cruel then, because if there’s anyone who knows that, it’s Brandon himself.

  16. And then he pulls off what he pulled off in Game 3:)

    THAT’S why he’s so frustrated. That’s why he says things out of frustration. That’s why it’s so hard to let go. Because he knows- like I know- like a lot of us who actually watch him know- that he still has something in the tank. And even if it’s only for this year’s playoffs…..it’s this year’s playoffs! Play the man.

  17. And then he pulls off what he pulled off in Game 3:)

    THAT’S why he’s so frustrated. That’s why he says things out of frustration. That’s why it’s so hard to let go. Because he knows- like I know- like a lot of us who actually watch him know- that he still has something in the tank. And even if it’s only for this year’s playoffs…..it’s this year’s playoffs! And it’s sooner, rather than later, that he can still contribute something to this squad. Every game is a tick on the clock for him, so why NOT give him those minutes. If you can burn 12 minutes for him (because let’s not act like Rudy Fernandez is giving the Blazers much of anything), on the risk/reward that he doesn’t play that great, or he captures lightning in a bottle….well that’s the chance you take on ALL players. The difference is with Roy, the reward is soooo much more.

    I say play him. Bring him off the bench. Give him 15-20. Let him do that beautiful lull-you-to-sleep game that he does so well. And take the chance that he adds that extra layer to an already powerful Portland offense. The addition far outweighs the subtraction….

  18. I’m not sure what I would have done in his situation, it’s easy to say you’d take the high road but it’s no doubt tough to be 26 (!) years old, not even fully in your prime yet and have it all snatched away as your body betrays you. Jesus, but it’s been tough for me just as a Blazers fan and a fan of Roy’s all around, heady game to see him unable to perform like we’ve become accustomed to over the years. It did me good to see him have a bit of a throwback game last night and help the team win in the playoffs, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to look back at his time in Portland without some sadness.

  19. [...] 18 points in the fourth quarter and leading his team back from 23 down, Roy reminded everyone that his story is not over by writing one of the most beautiful narratives I’ve ever seen.After finishing off the [...]

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