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Ball Don't Lie

Brandon Roy reveals that his arthritic knees are one step away from knee replacement-level

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Brandon Roy and Minnesota GM David Kahn (Getty Images)

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Brandon Roy and Oregonian Portland Trail Blazers beat writer Jason Quick appear to have a pretty open and candid on-record relationship, something obviously forged to our great benefit during Roy's 2006-2011 career as a member of the Blazers. Quick was our source earlier this week when Roy broke the news that he would have to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery, his seventh knee surgery since high school, sidelining him for a month and denying him the chance to play against his former team on Friday.

[Also: Kevin Love has big game in surprise return to T-Wolves (video)]

And on Thursday, as Quick met up with Roy in Minnesota before Friday night's Blazers/Timberwolves tilt, Roy revealed two pretty significant things to the man that used to stand outside his locker every year from October until spring. First, this current surgery was the result of inflammation caused by banging knees with an opponent in Milwaukee late in the postseason, and possibly unrelated to Roy's longtime injury woes.

Secondly? Roy's knees are probably at a level that no other professional athlete is working through. From Quick's very good feature on Brandon:

And with the calm that made him one of the game's best finishers, he explains that his knees have reached Level III arthritis. There are only four stages.

"Level IV," Roy says fearlessly, "is when you get a knee replacement."

So why do this? He doesn't need the money. He doesn't want the attention. He doesn't need the validation. Why risk his long-term health? Why endure the pain? Why?

Two reasons, Roy says.

When he walked away from the Blazers and the NBA, he felt it wasn't on his terms. And as a result he lost himself.

This comeback, then, is not about rediscovering glory, or proving doubters wrong.

He is searching for himself. Searching for peace.

That's inspiring. That's understandable, from Roy's side, and something to root for. And we're glad he continues to open up as he attempts to rebuild his NBA career.

I just don't understand why the Minnesota Timberwolves had to pay so much for the rights to employ Brandon as he searches for an end to his career that is on his terms.

The terms that Minnesota signed Roy to last summer -- $10.4 million over two years — weren't anywhere close to what any other NBA team was offering. It's true that the Wolves had plenty of money under the cap to use, after clearing the books earlier in the offseason, and that the final $5.3 million of Roy's 2013-14 portion of the contract is non-guaranteed. Still, the squad is paying $5.1 million this season for a player that could be a few weeks away from retirement.

[Also: Kobe, Jordan provide blueprint for aging Dwyane Wade (video)]

It's easy to understand Minnesota wanting to make a trusting commitment to Roy should he recover and his eventual ending turns into a happy one. It's passable under NBA rules, with Minnesota (still, with Chase Budinger out for a few months) desperately hoping to improve its play at the shooting guard position, to throw money at a player just because they can. And it's warming that Minnesota instilled a support system to help the player they drafted and then traded away in 2006 — Roy could have afforded his own surgeries and treatment on his own, but working with an NBA-level staff is always the best way to go.

The combination of all these factors, at this price? That's a tough sell, even if Brandon was moving along relatively healthy with nine points per game.

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Kobe Bryant and Brandon Roy in 2009 (Getty Images)

It isn't as if Roy suffered through ligament tears or tendinitis — even something as severe as a microfracture surgery could help a player recover from those ailments, even if it takes a while. This is a bone-on-bone condition, for Roy, which comes as a result of having no cartilage left in his knees. While it's true that the inflammation and eventual debris that resulted from his preseason injury could just be a blip that his most recent surgery fixed, this doesn't take away from the fact that this is a cra-azy commitment with funds that could have gone elsewhere in a trade (Wilson Chandler and J.J. Redick have already proven they look good in blue; plus Redick is white) for more wing help.

Sorry for pissing on the parade with pragmatism. I know, I'm the worst.

In cheerier news, we suppose, it should be pointed out that Roy is moving forward with just about the best outlook possible. From Quick's must-read piece:

"If it ends in three weeks, it ends. It's over. I'm totally satisfied with what I've done. I know the sacrifice and the effort that I put into coming back. It took a lot of discipline to get to where I am. That's all I care about: how hard I've worked. So I can't say I'm disappointed, that would be selfish. I was just a normal player my junior year in college, and everything since has been a major blessing.

"I've had an unbelievable run."

Whew. Getting a little misty in here.

It has been a great run. For some reason, after a time in the 1980s and 1990s that seemed to give dozens of All-Star level shooting guards to cheer for, there haven't been a lot of knockout players at that position entering the NBA since Dwyane Wade made his debut in 2003. The fact that Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen — two players firmly stuck in that 1990s generation I just referenced, can act as such influential players over a decade and a half after being drafted is both impressive and a little distressing. There just aren't that many great shooting guards anymore.

For a while, nearing even Bryant's level in pace-adjusted production in 2008-09, Roy was one of the greats. He was in line for a Hall of Fame career, and his knees betrayed him. Even if Roy can return from his latest setback, this is still a shame.

Good thing Brandon's not ashamed of any of it.

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