It's easy to feel sympathy for Blazers guard Brandon Roy. Once the top star on a team that looked set for multiple championships, bad luck and several knee injuries have left him a shadow of his former self. No player should have to go through this, and we all feel for him.
On the other hand, this state of affairs has defined Roy for nearly a year. So when you read that he was near tears on the bench because of a lack of playing time, it's hard to understand exactly what kind of player he thinks he is these days.
"I always try to find positives out of situations, but this is a tough one to find something," Roy said in the hallway outside the Blazers' locker room.
Roy's frustration wasn't hard to see. His eyes looked watery. The transformation from star to role player — brought on by career-threatening knee injuries — has been an emotional one. [...]
"I can't deal with how it's going now next year," Roy said. "I can't deal with a full season of how I'm doing now. It just messes with you because it's draining. It drains you. But again, these guys are my teammates and I got to support them.
At The Oregonian, Jason Quick reported that Roy also said he had to fight back tears on the bench.
If you've watched the Blazers with Roy at all this year, it's been clear that LaMarcus Aldridge is now the team's star and that Roy should no longer be one of the team's primary offensive options. In fact, as Bethlehem Shoals argued at GQ.com earlier today, Roy's presence may even hold back other players at this point.
Still, Roy seems to be having a hard time accepting this new role. In a terrific post at Eye on Basketball, Blazers expert Ben Golliver notes that Roy needs to face facts about his new situation:
There is a clear disconnect for Roy. While his knees feel good that doesn't necessarily mean that he's the player he once was, nor even a productive player. A lack of swelling or pain doesn't equal 25 points a night, or 10 points a night. Or, even, a single point on Tuesday night. Playing without pain doesn't mean he's playing well. Those two have long gone hand in hand for Roy in the past, but that simply hasn't been the case for months now.
When Roy says his struggles are purely mental, he's either kidding himself or he hasn't fully come to terms with his current abilities. Scouts, former players, media observers and fans see a player whose quickness and power off the dribble have disappeared, a player whose ball fake and dribble combinations no longer mesmerize, a player whose lift is gone, a player who has been a defensive liability -- slow laterally, slow to rotate, slow to close out -- for the entire season, and a player whose confidence is clearly shaken.
There's not only a disconnect for Roy -- it seems as if he and the Blazers just aren't on the same page regarding his role on the current roster. Roy is still paid like a star, and yet his performance deems he should be a reserve. What's to be done?
At some point this summer, the Blazers and Roy are going to have to come to an agreement about how he can be used best to help the team. His days of acting as the team's primary option are soon to be a distant memory, barring a shocking comeback. The sooner everyone can agree on a clear role, the better off the Blazers will be moving forward.