The NBA Playoffs: Brandon Roy Isn't Crying, But He's Thinking About It

April 20, 2011

Tom Goldman

Ronald Martinez
Guard Brandon Roy of the Portland Trail Blazers loses his balance in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday, April 16. On Tuesday, things got even tougher.

It's been a great NBA playoff season so far — something for everyone, you might say.

You want nail-biters between classic rivals? We give you the Celtics and Knicks. The C's have won the first two games by a combined five points. Last night, New York's big three — Amare Stoudamire, Chauncey Billups, and Carmelo Anthony — were reduced to a big one. Anthony made the most of it, with 42 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. But it wasn't enough, as the Celtics showed again that the playoffs are all about finishing close games — which they've now done twice.

For those seeking surprise outcomes ("I like surprise outcomes and long walks on the beach"), how about Memphis and New Orleans beating NBA royalty San Antonio and Los Angeles in the first games of those series?

But for those who like their pro basketball emotions good and raw, consider the case of Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Brandon Roy.

Roy's team lost last night to Dallas to fall behind 0-2 in the series. A three-time All-Star and the 2007 Rookie of the Year, Roy racked up a box score line that was, in a word, dreadful. In fact, it was the worst of his pro career (fortunately for his pro career). He took one shot from the field, and he missed it. He shot two free throws, and he missed both of those, too. No rebounds. No assists. He was on the court for a grand total of seven minutes and 59 seconds.

But what really got him — what turned this stellar professional into a million lip-quivering 10-year-olds sitting on a million benches in a million basketball games — was the fact that his coach kept looking past him when calling for subs.

"There was a point in the first half, and I was thinking, 'You better not cry,'" Roy, one of the first players to leave the locker room, told the Oregonian. "I mean, serious. I mean, there was a moment where I felt really sorry for myself. Then I was like, nah, you can't be sorry for yourself. I'm a grown man."

Good thing for Portland head coach Nate McMillan that Roy seemed to self-correct right at the end there. Roy knows he's a grown man, meaning McMillan won't have to channel Marlon Brando or Tom Hanks.

But read a little further in the newspaper article, and there are some worrisome signs.

"I think my nature I've never been one to confront. Never been the one to create controversy," Roy told the paper. "I think Coach is comfortable with his guys and it's hard for him to get me back in there. If that's what he is comfortable with, then I'm going to try and support the team. And if he can get us past [the first round], then he can. I just always thought I would be treated a little better, but ... it is what it is. I'll be all right. I'll go home, see my kids, and be happy."

Hey, we in Portland who have watched and admired Brandon Roy as he's become the very positive face of the Blazers — we're all for good, positive parenting. But finding refuge in his family during the postseason? And telling a reporter you've "never been one to confront"? Knowing that a reporter will, well, report that? It's all sounding a bit passive-aggressive, and not like the kind of thing a team wants to deal with as Game 3 looms tomorrow night and Portland tries to figure out how to get its other bench players (scoreless in the second half of Game 2 and outscored by Dallas 39-to-11) contributing as well.

In Roy's defense, he has been an absolute rock in Portland since he finished four years at the University of Washington (an NBA star who went to college for four years?). A team maligned as the "Jailblazers" became a franchise led by an outstanding player and upstanding citizen.

But this year has been a bear for Roy. A rising star and only 26, he suddenly and painfully had to confront not one but two balky knees that literally grounded his ascent into the NBA stratosphere. Surgeries took him out of action for a couple of months, and since his return, the team has been careful not to play him too much.

He says the knees now feel fine. Late in the season, he played an important role in two wins over Dallas. But something is wrong early in the playoffs. Roy isn't producing. His coach isn't playing him. And the face of the Blazers that was so promising so recently is now just trying not to end up streaked with tears.

Portland's a great home team, and the Blazers could still turn the series around. But if they don't, there may not be enough Kleenex to go around. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.