One of the stories every basketball fan will be talking about around the water cooler this season is Brandon Roy’s return to the NBA.
Less than a year ago, on Dec. 10, 2011, Roy retired from the NBA due to knee issues 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 retirement so surprising is that it came on the heels of an epic game in the playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks where he lifted the Portland Trail Blazers to victory after overcoming a 23-point deficit. Roy came through in the fourth quarter and put his team on his back in the comeback win with 18 points.
Roy averaged a career-low 12.2 points in 43 games his final season with Portland but there were still glimpses of what he could 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 season, he had surgery for a slight meniscus tear in April of 2010, and the following January, 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 minutes were limited.
Throw in the fact that his knees made snapping and popping noises due to bone rubbing on bone, and it was clear his body was no longer appeared able to withstand the rigours of an NBA season.
How did Roy get his knees back to being able to endure the trials and tribulations of being an NBA player? He took a leap of faith and tried out a medical process similar to what Kobe Bryant underwent 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 consider, 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, 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 be front and centre when they return to active duty.
Now Roy is free to play the sport 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 said. “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.