MINNEAPOLIS — The question was never one of retiring. Not for Brandon Roy, not last month when his right knee wouldn’t stop aching. The decision, rather, was of playing through the pain, a concept to which the shooting guard is no stranger, or undergoing a procedure, the seventh arthroscopy in his 28 years.
Roy chose surgery on Nov. 19, and the Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard said Thursday he doesn’t know where the chatter about his retirement originated. He’s not at that point, not yet, and as he begins to ramp up his practices again, nearly a month later, he seems optimistic. It’s not necessarily that Roy will be at 100 percent – he dodged that question – but that he’ll be able to help a team that he pledged to help “get over the hump.”
Roy has been limited in these early practices since he rejoined the team Sunday, doing mostly shooting, running plays and work in the weight room. He’s not yet done any activities involving contact. But the pain he felt from bumping his knee in the second quarter of the team’s Oct. 26 preseason game against the Bucks is gone, no longer lingering like it did through the first weeks of the season.
“It feels good,” Roy said. “It feels like that nagging feeling I was feeling there early in the season, it feels like it’s gone. Next week I’ll be able to test it a little bit more.”
Next week, Roy said, he’ll begin to participate in full practices, but doing so will be tough. The team has back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday in Orlando and Miami, a day off, and then a game against Oklahoma City at home Thursday. In fact, coach Rick Adelman admitted in pregame Wednesday that though he hoped to get Roy back out on the court in practice next week, it might have to wait a few days longer (most likely until Dec. 21) based on nothing more than the schedule.
Regardless of when Roy begins participating fully, there’s still no timetable for his return to games, and the team has managed without him. Malcolm Lee, who filled in as the starting shooting guard before hyperextending his knee Wednesday, is averaging 4.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists on 38.2-percent shooting. While healthy, Roy was good for 5.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists on 31.4-percent shooting. Alexey Shved is also a viable starting option with Lee out, and Josh Howard might also get minutes at shooting guard.
Roy is the kind of player who’s hard to read. He doesn’t let much emotion seep through, aside, of course, from his obvious love of the game. He rarely seemed downcast throughout this whole ordeal, and on Thursday it was no different. He admitted that coming into the season, he didn’t want to have another arthroscopy (who would?) and that he tried not to think about the possibility of further injury. Now, though, injury has again been shoved down his throat, and the three-time All-Star has emerged no less placid than when the knee seemed of little worry in early November.
“We felt that was the best thing to do at the time,” Roy said of the surgery. “We understand that it is a long season, and the goal was to try to come in and help this team out, so I still have a lot of time left to try to do that. So, again, you can’t prepare for something like that, but now I’ve gone through it.”
And now, we wait. We wait for Roy to begin practicing, to begin playing, and we wonder. Not about what he’ll do – his preseason and early play gave a hint of what he’s good for, reasonably good output for someone who’s been through so much and is in the early stages of a comeback from retirement. No, the wondering comes about whether this will happen again, whether this last setback was just the latest in a chain that continues uninterrupted to those days back in Portland.
In many ways, whether Roy was considering retirement is irrelevant. His mind works the way it works, and if he’s dead set on finishing this season or even a few more, on doctoring that knee to the point of no return, then so be it. Brandon Roy still loves this game, even as it’s slapped him in the face at every turn. What matters, though, is if and when this will become too much, and as Roy plunges forward once again, there’s no telling.