When ex-Portland star guard Brandon Roy announced his retirement in December at 27 years old, he seemed far too young to be done playing basketball. His knees were in terrible shape, to be sure, and his days as a franchise cornerstone were done. But surely Roy could help some team somehow, right? He had simply been too great as a Rookie of the Year and All-Star with the Blazers to be finished entirely.
That turned out to be the case. Since making clear his intentions to return to the NBA several weeks ago, Roy has met with several teams. On Thursday night, Jason Quick of The Oregonian reported that Roy had reached an agreement with the Minnesota Timberwolves (technically the team that drafted him) on a two-year deal worth $10.4 million. And now that he's back with an NBA team, we must wonder what exactly we should expect out of Roy in this new phase of his career.
What we know is that the Wolves won't expect Roy to be a star. As an up-and-coming squad with franchise linchpins in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, Roy will be expected to be a scorer and secondary facilitator. Given his injury history, Minnesota coach Rick Adelman shouldn't pencil Roy in as a 20-point scorer or even an exceedingly dependable player. Instead, Roy will be part of the team, neither a sign of failed dreams as he was in Portland nor a free-agent savior destined to lead the Wolves to relevance in the West for the first time in nearly a decade. The Wolves are building something and conceive of Roy as part of the solution, not the whole plan in itself. (That's especially the case if their offer sheet for Blazers forward Nicolas Batum isn't matched, though Yahoo!'s own Adrian Wojnarowski says that's not happening.)
In an ideal situation, Roy would play 20 or 25 minutes off the bench, with much of that playing time coming in key moments of the game. Unfortunately, the Wolves' shooting guard rotation is flatly awful and in desperate need of a new starter. Things were so bad, in fact, that their two most common lineups featured career point guard Luke Ridnour at the position. Otherwise, they depended on obvious bust Wes Johnson, journeyman Martell Webster, and professional dross Wayne Ellington. Based on talent alone, Roy should be the starter. Yet he might not be able to handle it physically, and the Wolves can't just throw him out there and expect no consequences whatsoever.
To complicate things even further, Roy wasn't the most unselfish presence during his last days in Portland. While much of his behavior can be explained by his own confidence, he also expected to have a role as a starter no matter his health. In many cases, that wasn't the best plan for the Blazers. Minnesota will be a far less complicated situation — the Blazers were essentially built as Roy's team, after all — but there could still be issues. Hopefully these questions were answered during negotiations, because if they weren't, we could see some ugliness next season.
That's speculation, though. The year off could have done Roy a great deal of good, and a new training staff may do wonders for his joints. And as anyone who watched his decimation of the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 of their 2011 first-round series knows, there are times at which he still looks like an All-Star. Whenever he's on the court, Roy will help the Wolves. But the problem isn't only knowing how much he can play without sustaining an injury — it's how much a responsible team should play him to maximize his health and effectiveness.