It’s hard to dispute that Brandon Roy’s 11th hour return in Game 4 gave the Portland Trail Blazers the emotional boost they needed to avoid going down 3-1 to the Suns.
He only scored 10 that game, but the adrenaline rush the team got from their leader’s courageous return to the court just eight days after surgery was the intangible the team needed.
Game 5 was an entirely different story. It might sound like a stretch to say that an All-Star guard actually hurt his team’s chances of winning, but when he is fresh off surgery it might not be.
A look at Roy’s final stats might serve to back up the argument…
Brandon Roy, Game 5: 2-for-7 (28.6 %), 5 points, 1 rebound, 1-for-2 FT, 4 fouls, minus 21
All that came in 19 minutes on the floor, off the bench. While Roy’s conventional stat totals aren’t the worst of any starter in this game (looking at you Jarron Collins/Nic Batum), it was his plus-minus that brings about the real scrutiny.
Roy’s minus 21 was worst in the game, just worse than LaMarcus Aldridge’s minus 20, but Roy’s stands out since Aldridge played twice as many minutes. Basically, the Trail Blazers were playing their worst when Roy was on the floor. You probably couldn’t say that at any point during the regular season.
“He got some quick fouls,” Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said after the game. “Sometimes you just can’t get into a rhythm when you’re in foul trouble like that.”
To me, it’s simple: Roy is not ready to be playing NBA games, especially in a playoff atmosphere. He’s not 100 percent and I don’t think anyone, including him, would try to argue that. The guy was on an operating table 10 days ago!
It seems like Roy is hesitating because he’s not all the way there. When a team’s emotional leader (and statistical leader when healthy) is hesitating, said team will not be at its best. That’s simple logic. Roy, however, said he feels fine and just never got going.
“I feel healthy,” Roy said. “I came in, got those three fouls and only played like five minutes in the first half, so I never really got in a good rhythm.”
Wellllll, maybe. But I think it’s more than that.
I’ll say this of Roy’s presence: It was an absolutely brilliant move to bring Roy back in Game 4 from an emotional perspective. A surprise return from the team’s leader in front of the home fans was exactly what Portland needed to stay alive.
However, it was a very, very risky move. I was shocked that the Trail Blazers allowed it, given their luck with injuries this season, but I can understand that Roy is a fierce competitor who wants to be on the floor every game. I respect that about him and admire his courage, but the guy on the floor right now is just not Brandon Roy. It’s time to shut it down.
Down 3-2 and going back to the Rose Garden, the Trail Blazers are still very much alive, but the Roy Effect has worn off and if he plays anything like he did Monday night, he’s just a liability. If he can only contribute minimally, why risk further injury that could alter the course of his young career?
I am by no means saying the Trail Blazers need to throw in the towel. This is still a series. All I am saying is that Portland might consider cutting its losses with Roy and instead try to find that Game 1 chemistry to take this series to seven games.
That’s not likely, however, as Roy told the finely-dressed Craig Sager after the game that he wanted to start in Game 6 Thursday in Portland.
“I’m going to ask to start,” Roy said. “It’s hard to get involved. I don’t think the guys are quite used to me coming off the bench, and it’s hard for me to kind of get my touches and try to get in a rhythm, so hopefully I’ll get back in the starting lineup for the next game.”
Michael Schwartz contributed reporting.