See what Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy's doing there?
He puts his body on the line, night in and night out. He takes a beating every time he plays. He's the guy who has single-handedly won at least a dozen games over the last two years.
So, how did the Blazers' brass repay him?
They got him some help. Namely, Andre Miller.
Normally, this is a good thing, for Miller is one of the pre-eminent ballhandlers and distributors in the league. His basketball acumen and veteran savvy were supposed to push this young team over the edge.
Recent indicators show that Miller's making an impact. While he doesn't score as much (and doesn't really need to), his assist totals have risen sharply, especially since he was introduced into the starting lineup about a week ago.
His sharp passing has benefited Greg Oden and Steve Blake, the man everyone thought Miller was out to replace. It turns out that the two work reasonably well together, with Miller pushing the ball in transition and Blake parking his skinny hinder behind the three-point line, stretching the defense in the process.
All would seem to be well in Rip City. Except for one, small, teensy detail...
...Brandon Roy might, might be unhappy.
Apparently, the media types in Portland, being media, have said that the free-flowing style Miller prefers to play in cramps Roy's ability to be, well, Roy. This supposed problem was magnified after a game—a win, I might add—against the San Antonio Spurs, where Roy finished with a mere two points.
"Two points? TWO !? No way! This lineup doesn't work!" said the masses.
"B-Roy scored only two!?" "B.'s not happy, he can't adjust." "Roy can't run with the rest of the team, or he doesn't want to." "Brandon's complaining to Coach Nate (McMillian) about Miller again ."
These and other comments have reached my ears ever since the three-guard lineup was introduced. The fear was that Roy, who likes the half-court sets where he dribbles past screens and either drives or shoots, wouldn't be able to adjust to not having the ball in his hands all the time .
To those that think that Brandon Roy won't be able to be, well, Brandon Roy, I politely say: SHUT UP!!!
Haven't you noticed that Roy's a transcendent talent? That he's both a skilled enough and intelligent enough player to be able to adjust to not having the rock?
Last night's game at Memphis was a case in point. Roy had a very well-rounded game: 20 points and seven assists, leading the team in both categories.
While we will still see hiccups during the early part of the season, the kind of game Roy had at Memphis will be the kind of game he'll have with Miller in the starting lineup: slightly fewer points, slightly more rebounds (playing small forward) and several more assists.
With the emergence of Oden and the growing offensive prowess of the bench, Roy will have to surrender his stats for the goal that he and every other elite player wants: the Larry O'Brien Trophy. And believe me, he has no problem with doing that.
He's said repeatedly that, starting with himself, the Blazers will have to sacrifice individual achievements and glory for the sake of the team. One thing that Roy does not do is lie about what his team needs to do to be successful.
But for those fans out there that fret about Roy's dropping statistics, and worry that he may think Portland's not an attractive place to be because of said stats, I offer you an example: Kobe Bryant.
Remember the years that Bryant did nothing but score, score, score? He may have gotten the scoring titles and individual accolades his idol, Michael Jordan, did, but Bryant couldn't take the Lakers very far on his own.
It got so bad that Bryant actually said he wanted to be traded away.
Then, the Lakers brass got him some help by acquiring Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum developed into a legit post threat.
At first, Kobe couldn't adjust to not being "The Man." He had gotten so used to having the rock all the time that it physically hurt him to watch his teammates shoot...until they started winning games, that is.
Bryant adjusted. He learned how to move without the ball, using teammates to free himself from his defender, then either spotting up for an open jump shot or cutting to the hoop for a layup.
Roy can learn how to do the same things without the ball that he does with the ball, and Andre Miller's a good enough passer to be able to find Roy when he's open or free from his man. He's unselfish enough to work himself into an offensive scheme where he isn't always "The Man."
Two things that work in Roy's favor are the fact that he's still a relatively young player that's open to instruction (he has a great relationship with McMillian), and the fact that Kobe Bryant never worked with a passer as good as Miller.
It's ironic that Brandon Roy is the one who's constantly preaching the "there's no I in team" concept, when he's the one who stands to lose the most in terms of individual accolades. Ironic, and indicative of the kind of player, leader, and man he really is.
There's still a chance Roy could amass a resume good enough to make the All-Star Game for the third year running. There's even a chance that he could gain MVP buzz if he gets the new system quickly enough.
There's also the concrete certainty that he could care less.