Brandon Roy's retirement from the NBA last year wasn't intended as a final decision.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were eager to help him clarify his status.
"After a few months of sitting out, I decided, 'Hey, I don't want to stop playing basketball,"' Roy said Tuesday at a news conference at Target Center after signing a two-year, $10.4 million contract. "I wanted to continue going forward. It was never a situation where I said, 'I'm done forever.' It's just more of a pause."
The Portland Trail Blazers announced Roy's medical-related retirement right before the start of the lockout-shortened season last year. His knees, lacking cartilage after six operations, were bothering him too much to continue. Roy said Tuesday, though, that the team doctor advised him to quit. The Blazers used the amnesty clause to waive Roy and not count the remaining $63 million on his contract against their salary cap or luxury tax.
"It was never really officially my decision to retire," Roy said.
So here he is with the Wolves, at 6-foot-6 and age 28 ready to resume what was already an outstanding career before his knees began to break down.
Roy was on a playing-time limit — 22 minutes per game — during his last season with the Blazers, a restriction he said frustrated him badly. His 18-point fourth quarter in a Game 4 comeback win over the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs only boosted his confidence that he could still play at an elite level.
The Wolves not only were interested once he made it known he was considering a comeback, they promised him they'd take off the reins as long as he can prove his knees can handle it. Roy said his goal is to again become a 35-minute-per-game player, his career average.
That, combined with endorsements from friends of head coach Rick Adelman, familiarity with Adelman's assistants and a playoff-calibre core in Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and now Andrei Kirilenko, was enough to persuade Roy to pick the Wolves.
"It's not a situation where I wanted to be a 10th man. I want to be able to go out and work and be a big part of a team taking that next step, and I thought the pieces were right here," Roy said. "When they say, 'You know, Brandon, the sky's the limit here,' that really made me feel good. I thought some teams maybe wanted me to play a small role, but Minnesota was saying, 'You can come in and earn as big of a role as you want.' So that was really important for me."
Roy worked out for two months last winter before deciding to try an increasingly popular but medically unproven procedure known as platelet-rich plasma therapy. It's basically an injection of a patient's own blood back into the body, to help heal degenerative joints. Kobe Bryant went to Germany before last season to have it done. Roy said it's allowed him to work out hard and feel no day-after discomfort.
"I'm not saying I'm Kobe Bryant, but my body felt really good. I've been working out ever since, and there hasn't been any swelling. I'm excited I got it done," Roy said. He told Wolves president of basketball operations and general manager David Kahn he wouldn't have returned if he didn't think he could "reach a high level of basketball."
Back with the Wolves
Roy, of course, was drafted by the Wolves in 2006 and traded to the Blazers for fellow shooting guard Randy Foye soon after. His mom keeps a picture of him shaking the commissioner's hand for the cameras, with a Timberwolves cap on. Roy recalled Tuesday a television interview backstage that ended abruptly that night when the deal was done.
"I'm just happy to be here and be a part of the organization for a little bit longer than 30 minutes," Roy said, smiling. "Hopefully nobody's yelling, 'Cut!' back there."
Despite his per-game points falling to 12.2 during the 2010-11 season, while playing in only 47 games, Roy still has a career average of 19 points. He was an All-Star in three of his five seasons with the Blazers, the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2007 and scored better than 26 points per game during the 2008 playoffs.
So after years of decrying the front office for the ill-fated Roy-for-Foye trade, Wolves fans can finally root for the player they wanted — while hoping those knees hold up.
"This one kind of came out of left field," Kahn said. "It wasn't until late this spring that Brandon decided that he was ready to come back to basketball after being away for only a season. And all I can say is I'm just thrilled that he chose us and not somebody else, to resume his career."
Kahn said he's not concerned about unrealistic expectations. The fact that Roy is not currently experiencing soreness or swelling in his knees, Kahn said, is key.
"If that continues," Kahn said, "this should really work out well because that's the only thing then that would hold him back."