It's a dark day in Portland and for fans of Rip City basketball across the nation. It is now heavily speculated that Brandon Roy will announce his impending retirement due to a series of ongoing knee issues that have plagued him for the brunt of his brief career.
Roy came into the league in 2006, the sixth overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and was traded to Portland on draft day. Immediately, the team knew they had found a truly remarkable player. Despite playing in only 57 games in his rookie season, Roy averaged 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists on his way to the Rookie of the Year Award.
His high basketball IQ, phenomenal midrange game, as well as his cutting ability and solid handles, gave Portland a true franchise player and someone the team could build around. The acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge in another draft-day trade gave the team a serious one-two punch, and the team seemed poised to become a Western Conference powerhouse.
Then the damage to Roy's knees began piling up: first surgery in the 2008-2009 season; then a bone contusion the year after that limited him to 65 games; and finally the double arthroscopic surgery of last year that sidelined him for 39 games and ultimately reduced him to a bench role after his return.
Roy was the kind of player whose love for the game oozed out of him every second on the floor. Few could match his level of passion and his overall talent. At his best, Roy was one of the most electrifying players in the league and one of very few with the ability to completely control the game from the shooting guard position. It's a shame to see anyone retire before their time. But seeing one who is not only supremely skilled but incredibly endearing is even more upsetting.
This now leaves the Blazers in a precarious situation. Rumor had it the team was considering using their amnesty clause on Roy, which would clear their cap of the rest of the $82 million, five-year contract he signed in the 2009 offseason. This would open up significant cap space for a team that, thanks to the play of Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and the rest of their extremely deep, unselfish ball club, was poised to become one of the Western Conference's elite.
If Roy is to retire, then Matthews will become the clear starter, unless the team throws a hefty contract at a free agent two-guard like Arron Afflalo or Jason Richardson, which is highly unlikely. The Blazers will still need a backup at the position and could pursue a player like Delonte West, unless they are content with Jon Diebler and Armon Johnson as Matthews's primary relief.
With Greg Oden re-signed for the year the team's starting line-up should ideally be Raymond Felton at the point, Matthews, Gerald Wallace at small forward, Aldridge at the four and either Oden or Camby manning the middle.
L.A. will become the team's unquestioned leader, and the should-have-been-All-Star will need to continue the stellar leadership job he did in Roy's stead after his surgery. If Aldridge can continue to elevate his game and become the true face of the franchise Portland may be alright, but if he regresses, coupled with the emotional blow of losing their biggest star, it could be a rough at the start of the season for the Portland Trail Blazers.
The team may also elect to slide Nicolas Batum over tot he two for periods of time. Despite being a bit oversized at 6-foot-8, Batum's length and consistent outside shooting makes him a viable option at the shooting guard spot if the team decides to play big and use him and Wallace at the same time.
A plausible, though admittedly unlikely, effect of the cap space potentially cleared by Roy's retirement is that the team could try to attract a marquee free agent at the point guard or center spot in the coming years. Though on draft day they traded for Raymond Felton, who is more than capable of being a multi-year starter for the Blazers, they could throw an offer at a player like Deron Williams or even Dwight Howard, if Orlando refuses to trade him. However, that's really more of a pipe dream than anything else.
The reality is, due to Roy's ongoing injury struggles losing him at this point won't be as damaging for the team as it would have been in years past. But the tragic nature of his career is something that will weigh heavily over the Trail Blazers and entire NBA community.
One thing's for sure, though, no matter what happens in Portland as a result of Roy's retirement, good or bad, the image of B-Roy pacing the floors of the Rose Garden will never be forgotten. Unless something miraculous happens, the league is poised to lose one of its formerly brightest stars and the once promising career of Brandon Roy will end on a somber note.