Brandon Roy is just what Portland needed
The franchise still was reeling when Brandon Roy joined the Portland Trail Blazers. Still suffering the aftershocks from the tectonic tumult...
Seattle Times staff columnist
PORTLAND — The franchise still was reeling when Brandon Roy joined the Portland Trail Blazers. Still suffering the aftershocks from the tectonic tumult of the Jail Blazers years.
Portland had loved NBA basketball, but it hated the Jail Blazers. Once known as Rip City, it was becoming R.I.P. City. The game was in trouble here. Fans no longer came to the games.
The rogues' gallery of bad actors — Rasheed Wallace, Gary Trent, Bonzi Wells, Isaiah Rider, Qyntel Woods, Zach Randolph, Ruben Patterson — almost ruined three decades of goodwill between the city and the team.
Then a couple of Seattle expats came to town, charged with changing the team's culture, restoring the Trail Blazers' good name.
First, Nate McMillan was hired away from the Sonics in 2005. A year later, Washington All-American Roy was acquired from Minnesota in a swap of draft picks. Slowly, the wounds began to heal.
"From Day One the plan was to change the type of players we brought in," Blazers coach McMillan said Sunday before Portland's perfunctory pasting of the Los Angeles Clippers, 116-87. "We were going to look at, not only at talent, but also the character of the players.
"What a player could do off the floor was just as important as what he could do on the floor. We had to change on the floor, but we also had to get out into the community and allow them to get to know us."
On and off the floor, Roy became the perfect healer.
"Brandon gets it," McMillan said. "You don't see many of those guys coming in early who are that mature. Brandon understood where the organization was at when he was drafted and what we needed from him. He made a ton of [public] appearances the first two years and he did it because he knew we needed that.
"Some guys after their second year would say, 'OK, you've had me enough,' but he knew that was important to help us get our fan base back. And he's continued to do it."
Now in his third season, Roy, a two-time All-Star, has the Blazers (35-20) positioned for the playoffs. And the city is Rip-ping again. Sunday's win was Portland's 55th consecutive home sellout.
"He owns this town right now and he's not going to let it go," said Portland State coach Ken Bone, who was an assistant at Washington during Roy's Huskies years. "He's such a quality person. He's not going to mess up. He's solid on the court and off the court. It's so sweet to watch him. To be here in Portland and see what he's doing."
This is Roy's team.
McMillan consults with him about the pulse of the Blazers. McMillan encourages Roy's input. Before the season started, for instance, it was Roy who suggested that 20-year-old rookie Nicolas Batum start at small forward.
"No player ever told me about my responsibilities," Roy said. "It's just the way my parents raised me. Whether it was driving buses like my father did or if you worked in lunch rooms like my mom, you be a good person first. They weren't stars, but my mom was loved by everybody because she's a good person."
Roy's game is a reflection of his personality. He always is in control. He never rushes. In a game that revs high, he slows down the game. In a league that often is heavy metal, he is smooth jazz.
His game is efficient. It's clean. From Garfield to the Rose Garden, the process has been evolutionary.
"In high school, he could do whatever he wanted on the floor," Bone said. "But he wasn't exerting himself. I thought he was very lazy. He just didn't bring it. He would go through the motions. I think the game was too easy for him, simply too easy."
Most players would take offense to criticism that pointed, but Roy agrees with his old coach.
"In high school my dad would get upset with me," Roy said. "He'd say, 'You might have scored 30, but you underachieved tonight. You did the bare minimum.' I think that's why I never won a state championship, because I didn't push myself to that level. I didn't maximize.
"But when I got to college, [coach Lorenzo] Romar didn't accept that. He didn't accept just being good enough that day. He taught me to be good every day. Now every night I'm going out there to maximize."
The aftershocks have subsided. The fault lines have disappeared. The Jail Blazers are just a blurry memory from Portland's troubled past.
This is Brandon Roy's team. And he gets it.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
email@example.com | 206-464-2176
UPDATE - 9:02 PM
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