MINNEAPOLIS — Brandon Roy is an optimist. David Kahn is trying to be one.
The Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations spoke briefly before Saturday’s game on the heels of a statement Roy released to clarify speculation about his health and his knees. In the statement, Roy said he’s suffered a setback in his recovery and has been weighing his options over the past two days.
“I have decided to explore additional treatment options and an extensive rehabilitation plan,” Roy said in the statement. “My goal has been, and continues to be, to return to the basketball court as healthy as possible in order to help our team.”
That’s the optimistic Roy that the Timberwolves have seen all season, upbeat in training camp and hopeful of returning to the court quickly as recently as Thursday, less than a week after he returned to practice.
But after Roy missed Friday’s practice and Saturday’s shootaround, speculation began to swirl about his status with the team. Hence the update, however cryptic.
Roy spoke extensively with Kahn over the past two days, and the two discussed several options before settling on a plan for Roy to continue his recovery. What exactly Roy has chosen to do, however, remains unclear, even after Kahn’s elaboration on the subject.
Despite the wording of Roy’s statement, Kahn refused to categorize exactly what the shooting guard has elected to undergo beyond the fact that it’s not being done by a team doctor.
“It’s not a treatment,” Kahn said. “It’s not a procedure. It’s a personal issue. I don’t think there’s anything more I can say about that.”
Earlier in the talk, though, Kahn called the plan a non-invasive, non-surgical treatment. He also said that it is not a form of the platelet-rich plasma therapy Roy underwent before his comeback.
Kahn said that he doesn’t want to put a timeline on making a decision about Roy, and he floated the idea that the shooting guard would have a better idea of the effects of whatever he’s undergoing in three to four weeks.
So here’s what we’ve learned: Any notion of a Brandon Roy watch at the Target Center is off, suspended for at least a month. He did indeed suffer a setback this week, although it wasn’t a particular event that triggered pain, but rather a gradual devolution.
Roy still feels like he’s in better shape than before he underwent the Nov. 19 arthroscopy on his right knee, Kahn said, but he wants to feel as good as he felt in the preseason. How exactly he’s doing so remains a mystery.
The inherent problem with Roy’s situation is the fact that he’s hoping to return to how he felt before he’d begun to play basketball at a regular clip. The further he got into the grind of the NBA season, the more his condition deteriorated, whether from that bump with Ersan Ilyasova on Oct. 26 in Milwaukee or from overall wear and tear.
There’s no procedure that will regrow cartilage in his arthritic knees, and much of what Roy has done to this point to facilitate his comeback has been pain management and alleviation. You have to cheer for the guy — he’s a talented player and an all-around good teammate — but watching this roller coaster, it’s hard to imagine how difficult the past few months have been for him.
“It’s been tougher on Brandon, not being able to play and trying to come back,” coach Rick Adelman said. “But this league . . . doesn’t wait for you. They don’t stop the games and give you a little reprieve.”
Roy returned to practice with the Timberwolves a week ago after missing a month and a half; he last played Nov. 9 against Indiana. Roy went through an extensive workout on Thursday, just his second full practice with the team since returning, and afterwards spoke positively about his rehab.
Although he floated the idea of a Saturday comeback, Adelman said he never expected that to be an option, citing the ripple effect of putting Roy back into the lineup.
“This is really about our team more than anything else,” Adelman said. “Where do you fit him in? I’m trying to fit Ricky (Rubio) in, and how that affects the four guards we have. You bring Brandon back, that’s going to affect everybody around.”
Roy has undergone seven arthroscopic surgeries in his career and was forced into retirement in 2011 when Portland amnestied him just one year into his five-year, $82 million contract extension. Roy, however, insists that he never considered himself to be retired, and after undergoing Regenokine, a variant on platelet-rich plasma therapy, he decided to stage a comeback, signing with the Timberwolves this summer.
Roy averaged 10 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in seven preseason games. He began the regular season in the team’s starting five, averaging 5.8 points, 4.6 assists and 2.8 rebounds in five games.
During the team’s Nov. 9 game against the Pacers, though, Roy did not return to the bench at halftime. He hasn’t played since, undergoing arthroscopy on his right knee 10 days later. The pain from that Oct. 26 bump had never really subsided, the team revealed, and something needed to be done.
Roy’s contract, worth $10.4 million for two years, is partially guaranteed. The Timberwolves are on the hook for the $5.1 million due to him this season, but the $5.3 million he’s owed next year is not guaranteed.
“We know that we need to protect ourselves in every way,” Kahn said. “He does as well. He understands that we have to do what’s best for the team. He acknowledges that, and he actually was encouraging of that . . . He knows that this could have all kinds of outcomes still. But in the meantime, I’m hoping for the best as he pursues this path.”
The Timberwolves for now will proceed without Roy, just as they’ve done all season, and this news should have little effect upon how the team goes about its business. With the Feb. 21 trade deadline still eight weeks away, Kahn said there’s no way to know what roster moves might be feasible by then, and for now, they’ll wait to see if Roy can contribute.
“We’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” Kahn said. “Meaning I think the team has to prepare as if it may not work, and do what’s necessary.”