At the peak of his career, Brandon Roy was one of the NBA's premier shooting guards, a rare blend of scoring, passing and all-around cerebral play. But the three-time All-Star was forced into early retirement just last summer when he announced that his knees had degenerated to the point where they lacked cartilage between the bones. It was a harsh blow to the Portland Trail Blazers and to Roy, who at 27 years old was supposed to be entering his basketball prime.
Now the 2007 Rookie of the Year has fully committed himself to a comeback. "I wouldn't be going back out there if I wasn't ready to play at a high level," Roy said to his hometown radio station KJR in Seattle. Roy explained the medical procedure, which was executed in Los Angeles, as one "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."
Ironically, it was the Minnesota Timberwolves who signed Roy to a two-year deal worth $10.4 million: Minnesota originally drafted him sixth overall in 2006, only to trade him to Portland.
"We got a bunch of work in, and it just so happened that [GM] David Kahn and director of player personnel R.J. Adelman were in town and they watched Brandon," Wolves assistant coach Bill Bayno told The Huffington Post. "Brandon looked great: He was exploding with no pain. That's what kind of started the whole process."
The rationale for bringing Roy to the Wolves was really quite simple. Despite having a bonafide superstar in Kevin Love and a promising point guard in Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio, Kahn has lacked a perimeter threat for several seasons. Former first-rounders Rashad McCants, Wayne Ellington and Wesley Johnson have all disappointed, and Bayno believes Roy may very well be the answer.
"He wants to start, and our biggest weakness last year was that our wings could not make plays with the ball and we didn't shoot the ball well. I don't know who's going to beat Brandon out in that starting spot."
If Roy remains healthy, he also gives Minnesota -- who finished 25th last season in points allowed -- an elite perimeter defender.
"Brandon can really guard threes: the Paul Pierces, the Rudy Gays, even post-up players like Carmelo [Anthony]," Bayno added.
Of course, the risks around Roy's health are considerable. He has never once played all 82 games in a regular season and not since the 2009-10 season has he played at a consistently high level.
The Wolves have hedged their bet on him a bit, too. Kahn traded the 18th pick in the recent 2012 draft for Houston swingman Chase Budinger, an athletic 2-3 man who averaged nearly 10 points per game last season while shooting over 40 percent from three-point territory. Kahn also submitted a four-year, $46 million offer sheet (with incentives worth over $50 million) for Portland restricted free agent Nicholas Batum, a rising star at the small forward position, only to have it matched by the Blazers. Kahn has also signed touted Russian guard Alexey Shved to a three-year deal.
Bayno remains confident in Roy's health and his ability to contribute immediately to a steadily improving Wolves roster.
"I think these injections have really helped him," Bayno said, "similar to the way they helped Kobe. He's going to continue getting this treatment. The way he explained it to me is that you can get as many of these treatments as you want."
And Roy has said that he didn't sign with Minnesota to settle for a supporting role.
"I just always feel it's going to be hard to keep me out of the starting lineup," he told KJR. "That's just my mentality as a player and how I feel right now."
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