Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Nobody Knows You When You're Down

There’s been a fair amount of chatter about Brandon Roy being selfish. The guy has been a consummate team player, carrying the weight of this team the past three seasons as they’ve overachieved their way to respectability. He’s done everything that the organization has asked of him.

Along the way he’s earned awards, All-Star appearances and contract extensions because he’s done things the right way. And now to hear him labeled as some kind of me-first prima donna is simply mind-boggling. I can literally feel my brain trying to punish itself by colliding into the side of my skull repeatedly in retaliation for wasting brain cells on trying to fathom how people could come to such laughable conclusions.

But tonight, I think I figured out where people are coming from. Don’t get me wrong; the conclusion that Roy is anything but one of the best things to happen to this franchise is still preposterous, but I think I’m onto the reason why some so badly misconstrue his motives.

Brandon Roy talks too much about himself.

For example, take his comments after the Trail Blazers lost their third-straight game, this time to the Miami Heat. Portland once again allowed their opponent to shoot better than 50 percent from the field, which is as sure-fire a way to lose as there is in the NBA. And that boils down to team defense. No one individual can be responsible for an opponents shooting percentage.

But Roy didn’t talk much about the team. He talked about himself.

“I think I’ve got to play better for 48 minutes,” said Roy. “We’ve got to start to establish some type of rhythm where we’re not playing well in spots and not scoring in stretches and then our defense gets pretty bad. But I’ve got to start playing much better, and hopefully I can do that Saturday.”

The nerve! Taking responsibility for your own play? How dare he.

But it didn’t stop there.

Said Roy: “I just feel like I didn’t make the plays tonight and I think I need to keep working at it and try to find my rhythm because I think it’s going to help this team.”

So many “I” statements. I didn’t make plays. I need to keep working. Focusing on what he needs to do? Is that selfish?

But wait, there’s more!

“I realized tonight that I’ve got to get better,” said Roy. “I’ve got to get into the gym and continue to work because I see some things that I could have done out there but I just wasn’t able to make some of the shots and make some of the reads. I think I’ve got to improve. Don’t get me wrong, the team has to get better but I still think there’s room for me to improve to help this team.”

He did talk about the team toward the end of that quote. Maybe that will earn him some slack. It doesn’t seem like being the go-to guy on and off the court for the past three years has earned him much leeway from some fans out there, but maybe mentioning team rather than taking complete and total responsibility for the loss will help.

But if you’re still feeling like Brandon could be doing more to earn your respect, keep reading.

“I think I got caught up in looking around too much instead of looking at myself and what I’ve got to do to help this team,” said Roy. “I’ve got to keep getting better … I just feel like I’ve been thinking too much or looking for a lot of different reasons instead of just looking at myself. I’ve got to get back to going out there and playing and not worrying about pointing fingers or this and that. I’ve just got to get back to being me and that’s how I’ve always been. I started to realize that over the last couple of days and especially tonight. I’ve got to get in the gym working and try to turn this around.”

A heartfelt admission that he “got caught up looking around.” Another declaration that he needs to improve. A mea culpa when it comes to “pointing fingers.” What brought on this moment of self-reflection?

“Just a lot of talking about this and offense and can you and Greg play and can you and Andre play,” said Roy. “I’ve got to play. I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to make the plays I’ve been able to make in the past. I’m capable of it, it’s just my mind has been in a lot of places and now I’ve got to just get focused on this team and just getting that hunger back. I hate to lose so I feel like I’ve got to get out there, be aggressive and confident. I haven’t been very confident lately and I think guys can tell that. I’ve got to get my confidence back and I think the rest of the team will see it.”

That last sentence is the reason why I find the Brandon-Roy-as-selfish-ogre narrative so perplexing. This team feeds off of Roy. They follow his lead. When he’s in a grove, the rest of the team has a much better chance of doing the same.

It’s not selfish to know your own importance. The real selfishness is in denying said importance, something Roy refuses to do. He could let himself off the hook by devaluing what he does for the Trail Blazers. He could step aside, contract in tow, and play out his days in Portland while ceding the responsibility of leadership to someone else. It’s been done before.

But not by Brandon. Not now. Now ever. He’ll suffer the criticism and he’ll take the heat, but he’s not going to take the easy way out.


Joey said...

This is the first time Roy has looked to himself, but he should be asking why he doens't bother to look for Oden on the pick and roll.

stumptownson said...

Finally, a voice of reason! Seriously, its so disheartening to see people react the way they have to Brandon this year. He's still only 25! Every major basketball analyst worth their salt drools over Roy's skills, work ethic, and personality. This is a guy who takes his responsibility to heart and doesn't shy away from being a leader.
Has he had a rough start? Sure, but he's young; this is really the first season he's been here where anyone has had any expectations for the team, so cut him some slack. He's a smart guy, he'll figure it out; more importantly, he seems to genuinely care. Don't forget how rare that is in professional sports...