|Brandon Roy has big plans for his comeback bid with the Timberwolves. (Getty Images)|
To hear him tell it, he's a new man.
Brandon Roy was released by the Portland Trail Blazers using the amnesty clause after the team's doctors advised him to quit playing due to the condition of his two surgically-repaired knees. The 27-year-old 3-time All-Star stepped away from the game for the 2011-12 season but agreed to sign a 2-year contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves worth a reported $10.8 million this week.
While he hasn't stepped foot on an NBA court in 15 months, Roy said in an extensive interview with Seattle radio station 950 AM KJR on Monday that he sees himself as an impact player and, possibly, a starter.
"You know me, I wouldn't be going back out there if I wasn't ready to play at a high level," Roy said.
The comeback attempt's key ingredient, it seems, was a blood drawing and spinning procedure that Roy underwent in Los Angeles.
"It's something where they draw my blood, they spin it, they pull some different things out of it [and] they inject it right back into the joint," he explained. "It was five shots. It was on each of my knees. Ever since then, it feels great. I was smiling going in there to get the next one and I don't really like getting shots. I was so excited about how I was feeling, it was like the first day of school for me."
While previous platelet rich plasma treatment on his knees hadn't alleviated the severe pain and swelling he experienced during his time with the Blazers, Roy said the latest procedure left him feeling better than he's felt in years.
"After the first day of doing it, I was laying in my hotel room," Roy remembered. "I said, 'Man, this can't feel this good. I can't possibly really feel this good.'"
The description is tantalizing for those who have followed Roy, who was the face of the Blazers franchise during his 5-year career. In addition to the three All-Star nods, Roy made an All-NBA second team and third team and was the 2007 Rookie of the Year. A deliberate 2-guard known for his shot-creating abilities and mid-range game, Roy was given a 5-year so-called "mini-max" extension worth $82 million during the summer of 2009. He holds career averages of 19.0 points, 4.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds.
Injuries kept him off the court for portions of each of the next two seasons and he was shut down in 2010-11 so that he could undergo arthroscopic procedures on both of his knees. After the 2011 lockout ended, Roy initially planned to continue his career before ultimately making the retirement decision.
"It was quick the way things happened with Brandon last season," former Blazers coach Nate McMillan told CBSSports.com at Team USA training camp in Las Vegas, where he is serving as an assistant coach. "A week before camp, he and I and [president Larry] Larry [Miller] and [GM] Chad [Buchanan] met and we talked and we thought Brandon was going to show up for training camp. A week later, he decides that he's going to retire. That was a surprise to me."
Roy said on Monday that the decision was influenced by Portland's medical staff.
"The team doctor and the trainers, they thought it would be in my best interests to maybe stop playing basketball," he said. "They thought my knees weren't done at that moment but they thought they were progressively getting worse. It was something that really concerned me. I ended up talking with my wife, talking with the team and we just tried to find out the best way going forward. It was a difficult situation. It's not easy to walk away from basketball at any age, but especially at 27. It was really hard for me. I worked with those doctors for years, I trusted their opinion. We thought it was the best thing to do."
McMillan, who was fired by the Blazers in March after a Roy-less roster sputtered, always spoke fondly of Roy, who he praised for his intelligence, feel for the game and ability to make good things happen with the ball in his hands. He was clearly sad to see Roy go but, on Monday, he was measured in his expectations for Roy's performance while understanding Roy's desire to return to the court.
"I haven't spoke to Brandon, maybe that's not the way he wanted to do it [in December]," he said of Roy's abrupt retirement. "After sitting out the season maybe he wants to just see what he can do out on the floor... Hearing that he's coming back, it's somewhat of a surprise. But you kind of felt that he wanted to play and there's just a lot of unknowns with how much he can play and what kind of role."
Roy played with minutes limitations during the 2010-11 season after undergoing the dual surgeries and he was even moved to a bench role for the first time in his career. In the midst of a 2011 first round playoffs series against the Dallas Mavericks, he expressed frustration to reporters about his lack of playing time and shots. He then went on to deliver an unforgettable fourth quarter comeback during Game 4 of the series before the Blazers were eliminated by the eventual NBA champions.
On Monday, Roy said that the minutes restriction "bothered" him. McMillan reiterated on Monday that Portland's plan entering the 2011-12 season was to eliminate the minutes restriction and turn him loose as a starter.
"We felt that [limiting his minutes] was the best approach [in] talking to Brandon after the minor surgery that he had," McMillan said. "For the next couple of months we needed to monitor his minutes, try to adapt and change his role so we brought him off the bench, to see if that would help him get through the season and if he could be productive in that role.
"This past season, because he felt he wanted more minutes and he didn't really want to accept that role, we took all those restrictions off and basically he was going to go back in the starting lineup. There wasn't going to be any minutes requirement. He would play as much as he could and we would go from there. We weren't able to see that because he decided to retire."
The Timberwolves, meanwhile, have had a hole to fill at the 2-guard position for some time. Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster and Wayne Ellington haven't proven to be the answer, and point guard Luke Ridnour was even shifted out of position to fill the void last season.
Roy said that he met with Timberwolves executives and coach Rick Adelman for hours in advance of his decision to sign with Minnesota. While his role wasn't in great detail, Roy said he was approaching the season like he would any other during his career and he didn't sound like he has any intention of being a bit player.
"I didn't make any demands or ask a question about starting," he said of his meeting with Adelman. "I just always feel it's going to be hard to keep me out of the starting lineup. That's just my mentality as a player and how I feel right now."
"And not just be in the starting lineup," he added, chuckling. "Maybe get a few plays called for me. I just plan to work hard and put coach in a position where he has to play me."