These are interesting times in Rip City.
The Blazers, still young, have all the talent to become an elite team. We all see that. The enormity of this team's potential is a major reason for our instant frustration when they struggle. After all, success is not guaranteed.
To have a team so young and loaded never amount to much would be heartbreaking. Maybe the anxiety resulting from this uncertainty is responsible for us forgetting that the way to the top is rarely a straight path.
If championship success ever happens, it often arrives only after some significant obstacles are overcome: playoff heartbreak, team chemistry issues, injuries, or whatever.
"These setbacks are normal, perhaps even helpful," is a belief that I'm clinging to as I watch Portland struggle. It was never realistic to expect smooth sailing. But when the losses come the finger pointing starts, even when the losses are few.
So far, I’ve heard or read from different sources that this is Nate’s fault, Miller’s fault, Kevin Pritchard's fault, Roy’s fault, Aldridge’s fault, “injurie’s fault”, and nobody’s fault. If things continue none of us are safe from blame. Not me. Not my imaginary goldfish. Nobody.
The criticism that has stuck with me the most is Dwight Jaynes' recent post . Not so much the exploration of who threw whom under the bus, it was his point that Brandon Roy needs to learn how to become a real shooting-guard that became lodged into my mind. The claim was that both Roy and the team would be better off in the long run as a result. If only Nate would take a stand with Roy and make it happen.
“Roy seems like he’s being kind of a diva,” my Dad e-mailed me.
It was shocking to read something like that given the golden status of Roy in my family. It was even more shocking that such a statement actually resonated with me. Roy wants to win, but right now he seems to think that it can only happen his way. That his way is the best way.
If that means ignoring Oden in the post or failing to embrace Andre Miller, so be it. His way has worked before, and it will keep working if people would just stop messing with it.
Ultimately, Roy needs to realize that this team is too talented to run so much through one player. Roy has a selfless game in many ways, which makes me uneasy about going so far as to label him as selfish. But maybe he does need to get out of his comfort zone. All would benefit from his learning to be effective while playing a traditional two-guard role.
This thought doesn't diminish Brandon in any way. When the game is on the line, we know who the ball goes to. We know he's the alpha. We also know that there is talent on this team that is being underutilized, and that it is hurting. Portland can never fully upgrade their back court if Roy refuses to grant autonomy to the point guard.
What Roy is going through isn’t so unusual. Multiple young, talented ball-dominating 2 guards have been slow to truly embrace the team concept. Weary of trusting anyone else to help shoulder the load, they seize control and are slow to relinquish it. It took Jordan years (and Phil Jackson) to learn that he would win more if he bought into the team.
It took Kobe years (and Phil Jackson) as well. If Brandon has yet to internalize such principles completely, just remember that he still has time and that other players have overcome similar issues.
In a convoluted way, what I’m trying to say is that patience is in order. This team will have setbacks. Setbacks are normal. As mature as Brandon Roy is he is still a young player learning to trust his team.
He may need to grow his game in different ways and adopt a different mentality, but knowing what we do about Roy I'm choosing not to worry yet. Also, I think I implied that Portland should try to hire Phil Jackson. That was unintentional and completely subconscious. I hate my subconscious.