When Brandon Roy and his cursed knees signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves, I noted that the success of the partnership might depend on both sides sharing the same realistic expectations for what Roy can offer. After many knee problems and a year of retirement, there are questions as to how Roy can best contribute. Though it's entirely possible that he can play like his old self at times, his days of stardom are likely gone.
Roy, however, is a confident guy with the belief that he can overcome whatever health issues cross his path. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that, in an interview with the radio station KJR in his hometown of Seattle, Roy claimed that he expects to start and play at a high level. As transcribed by Ben Golliver at Eye on Basketball:
"You know me, I wouldn't be going back out there if I wasn't ready to play at a high level," Roy said. The comeback attempt's key ingredient, it seems, was a blood drawing and spinning procedure that Roy underwent in Los Angeles.
"It's something where they draw my blood, they spin it, they pull some different things out of it [and] they inject it right back into the joint," he explained. "It was five shots. It was on each of my knees. Ever since then, it feels great. I was smiling going in there to get the next one and I don't really like getting shots. I was so excited about how I was feeling, it was like the first day of school for me." [...]
Roy said that he met with Timberwolves executives and coach Rick Adelman for hours in advance of his decision to sign with Minnesota. While his role wasn't in great detail, Roy said he was approaching the season like he would any other during his career and he didn't sound like he has any intention of being a bit player.
"I didn't make any demands or ask a question about starting," he said of his meeting with Adelman. "I just always feel it's going to be hard to keep me out of the starting lineup. That's just my mentality as a player and how I feel right now."
This point of view is not new for Roy. In his piece, Golliver notes that Nate McMillan, Roy's former coach with Portland, had the plan not to limit his minutes this past season before the retirement was announced. The idea might have seemed like a logical one given the circumstances, but it was also the expectation of Roy himself for many years. Even when his play was limited and his knees were at their worst, Roy expected to be treated like the franchise cornerstone he had once been.
The Blazers didn't always seem to agree with that role for Roy. And that's why it's somewhat troubling that Adelman and Roy don't seem to have worked out a plan for his minutes or role in Minnesota. If Roy isn't able to play at the high level he expects to, then it stands to reason that Adelman will give him a smaller role, no matter how badly the Wolves need help at shooting guard. But if Roy still thinks of himself as a star — and there's really nothing in his comments that gives the impression he doesn't think that — then even a warranted drop in minutes might create an uneasy relationship between player and coach.
NBA players thrive on confidence, and it'd be problematic if Roy didn't believe that he couldn't become a key player for a playoff team again. But his situation, especially in a new city with a young team still trying to form its identity, requires at least some caution. Roy can hope and expect that he can play at a high level, but he must also prepare for problems along the way. The rest of his career is still very much up in the air. He and the Wolves need a contingency plan, because they could be headed for a messy ending without one.