Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is Brandon Roy Heroic or Too Risky?

Brandon Roy gave the Portland Trailblazers an inspirational lift on Saturday night when he made a surprise appearance in game 4 of their series against the Phoenix Suns. Roy has a torn meniscus in his knee that needs surgery and was not expected to be available for Portland in the playoffs. Yet Roy has conferred with the team doctors and determined that it cannot get worse by playing if he can play with the pain. In today’s NBA with the salaries that the players are paid, is Roy playing an act of heroism or an act of idiocy? I say heroism and any columnist that says otherwise is a hypocrite and just trying to stir up a story.

Everyone loves the story of Willis Reed returning to the court for the New York Knicks in game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals with a severe thigh injury and on one leg leading the Knicks to the title. The indelible image of Reed hobbling out of the tunnel towards the court gave the Knicks life and was a crushing blow to the expectations of the Lakers. Or more recently, remember Michael Jordan pouring in 38 points with severe hydration and the flu in the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz? The image of Scottie Pippen carrying his teammate to the bench late in the fourth quarter will forever be ingrained in my childhood hoops hero images. There are just as many stories of NFL players playing through pain and injuries, including Brett Favre too many times to count, Ronnie Lott having a part of his finger severed off so he could play, and Terrell Owens playing on a recently broken leg in the Super Bowl for the Eagles.

The case against playing has one glaring example and he happens to be on the opposing team in this first round series: Grant Hill. In 2000, Hill finished 3rd in MVP balloting but injured his ankle with 7 days left in the regular season. He insisted on trying to play in the playoffs against the Heat, and thus began his odyssey of ankle injuries that would last for the following 4-5 seasons, and transform his game from a dynamic slashing franchise player to a complimentary extra. Roy is a young franchise player and if his knee is messed up for the long-term, it will completely alter the outlook for the Portland franchise.

As a result, there are articles out there and a debate on Pardon The Interruption and Around the Horn whether Roy is putting the long-term good of the franchise at risk. Yet what are his options? If he sits out, does he get the LaDainian Tomlinson treatment? Tomlinson was slowed by injuries in the 2007 and 2008 playoffs and took a tremendous amount of heat for taking himself out of a game that Phillip Rivers played with a partially torn ACL. So Tomlinson was soft for realizing that he was hurting his team by playing when he wasn’t able to make an impact?

Roy is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. If he’s able to give the Blazers an emotional lift by making brief appearances and doesn’t hurt his team’s chances, I am all for him attempting to play. What’s more, maybe he’s capable of making a play or two which can change the momentum and help the Blazers get past the Suns. I think it is heroic and Roy should be commended for his willingness to do everything he can to help his team win. I’m as impressed with Roy’s determination and leadership as I am with Kristin Cavallari in a bikini.

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