Russ Bengtson sums up Brandon Roy’s night.
Injuries are the worst thing in sports. Whenever anyone gets hurt it’s horrible, but it becomes particularly gut-wrenching when a player who has the chance to be truly great has his career submarined.
The saddest example of this in modern NBA times is Grant Hill. It’s fantastic that he has clawed his way back to become a high-functioning role player for Phoenix, but prior to wrecking his ankle, he was on pace to have one of the greatest careers of anyone in history.
Brandon Roy, on his best day, was never as good at basketball as Hill.
But he was one of the ten best players in the league a few years ago and had a controlled, refined style of play that allowed him to do basically everything a player can do on offense. He could run the team, bringing the ball up the court and creating for others. He could flat-out score, using an array of dribble, hesitation and spin moves to get into the lane. And he could shoot, from the post, the midrange or deep. He had the complete arsenal.
Then his knees broke down and that all changed. He has been struggling to remain healthy for the past two years and was forced to undergo surgeries on each knee this January. He now lacks any cartilage in both and has early on-set arthritis in one. On the court, the complications are evident. His mobility has suffered, he doesn’t have the same lift as before and his quickness has been curtailed. His game was never rooted in explosiveness or high-flying athleticism, but in losing some of his physical gifts, his abilities have suffered.
None of this seemed to matter on Saturday evening, however, when we were treated to a vintage performance from the young man in the Playoffs. Who knows whether or not all-world play will ever be sustainable for him again, but on this day, in this game, for a team that looked as though it was about to have its season end, he delivered. And it was glorious.
The Blazers were down 2-1 in the series, which would likely be all but over if the Mavericks went up 3-1 with Game 5 taking place in Dallas. Deep into Game 4, that looked inevitable, as Portland were staring at a 23-point deficit in the second half. They only scored 14 points in the third quarter — this coming not long after the put up 11 total in the first — so there was no reason to think they had a chance.
Then Brandon Roy happened.
He dropped 18 in the fourth quarter and made it look like it was 2008.
Kevin McHale was doing color commentary for the game and relayed a story about the 1986 Boston Celtics, discussing one play in which Bill Walton jumped to grab a rebound and, before landing, threw an overhead outlet pass half-way down court to a streaking Larry Bird who finished the fast break. Right after he handed out the amazing pass, he looked a McHale and said “Flashback,” insinuating that he used to do things like that all the time, but after having his ankles, feet and basically every joint in his lower body fail him, he was a shell of his former self and could only occasionally feel healthy enough to do things that were once routine.
Health is a strange thing, so there’s no telling what the future holds for Roy. But even if this is one of the last “flashbacks” we’ll ever see from him, good lord, was it one for the ages.
Here are all his fourth quarter points. (via @DigitalSkraps)
Here is him coming off the court and discussing his performance. The best part: “With everything I’ve been through this year. There were times when I didn’t know if I’d play basketball again. When we were down 20 points, I said I was going to play. I don’t have anything to lose. It was amazing. I don’t know what to say — it’s unbelievable.”
And here is Brandon’s full post-game press conference.
UPDATE: Forgot to include this screen shot of an article that popped up on ESPNDallas after the third quarter. Looks like someone got ahead of themselves. They actually kept it up, but did change the headline. (Click through for full size)