After retiring in late 2011 because of recurring troubles with his knees, 27-year-old guard Brandon Roy decided Thursday night to return to the NBA, agreeing to terms with the Minnesota Timberwolves on a two-year deal worth $10.4 million, according to a league source.
Roy picked Minnesota over Dallas, Indiana, Golden State and Cleveland, which had gotten into his list of finalists, according to his agent, Greg Lawrence. Roy had originally considered the Bulls, but Chicago fell out of the running due to the severe limits on its payroll in the next few years. Derrick Rose‘s $95 million contract extension kicks in next season and the Bulls still owe Carlos Boozer $47 million over the next three seasons and Luol Deng $27 million over the next two. Chicago would not have been able to offer Roy anything more than the $3.09 million non-taxpayer’s cap exception next season, and the Bulls were put further under the gun earlier this week when the Rockets gave reserve center Omer Asik a commitment for a three-year, $25 million offer sheet, which Chicago will have three days to match when the free-agent moratorium ends next week.
Under the new amnesty rules, Roy could not re-sign with Portland even if he wanted to until the 2014-15 season, because the Trail Blazers were the team that waived him last December under the new amnesty provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Portland had to pay the remaining $63 million of Roy’s salary. After no one claimed Roy off waivers, he became an unrestricted free agent.
The Timberwolves were extremely aggressive in their pursuit of Roy, sending a party including owner Glen Taylor, team president of basketball operations David Kahn and coach Rick Adelman to visit Roy in Seattle last weekend. In addition, Roy was, and is, extremely close with Wolves assistant coach Bill Bayno, who had worked with him and with former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden tirelessly while an assistant in Portland. Bayno worked Roy out in the spring and said Roy looked almost like the old player that was a three-time All-Star for the Blazers, though he didn’t have quite the lift or explosiveness he had before.
The Wolves have been looking for a permanent solution at shooting guard for years, having gotten little consistency from players like Martell Webster or former first-round picks Wes Johnson and Wayne Ellington. Roy will take some of the scoring burden off of both All-Star Kevin Love and point guard Ricky Rubio, who’ll be returning from a torn ACL next season. But Roy will likely not be a 30 to 35-minute player any more. The Blazers tried to limit his minutes and bring him off the bench when he returned in the 2011 season, but the arrangement frustrated Roy.
Derrick Williams, the Timberwolves’ rookie forward who wore No. 7 last season, tweeted the following last night after news of Roy’s move to Minneapolis broke: “Welcome Brandon Roy. (No.) 7 is all yours.”
The Warriors were intriguing to Roy because of his relationship with general manager Bob Myers, who was formerly Roy’s agent with the conglomerate Wasserman Media Group. Indiana’s new GM, Kevin Pritchard, was the man who traded for Roy on Draft night 2006 while he was the GM in Portland, and the two have maintained a close relationship, talking often on the phone.
Murmurs about a possible comeback were brewing for months, after it was disclosed that Roy had undergone a treatment program similar to the platelet-rich therapy that Kobe Bryant and other star athletes had used in the last few years to improve their range of movement in their knees without the debilitating pain that usually accompanies lack of cartilage in the knees. Following weeks of treatment and workouts, Roy announced via the Twitter account of a former teammate last month that he would return to the NBA for the 2012-13 season.
Roy last played in the 2010-11 season for Portland, averaging 12.2 points a game. But he shot just 40 percent from the floor, looking like a shell of the player who’d been a three-time All-Star. Even though he occasionally could resemble his old self, like when he scored 18 amazing fourth-quarter points to lead Portland to a come-from-behind win over Dallas in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, Roy’s knees gave out on him.
Dallas was already interested in Roy before this week’s events, in which the Mavericks have lost most of their proven backcourt talent from the championship team of 2011. Dallas was unable to lure their primary target, guard Deron Williams, who opted to remain in Brooklyn for a five-year, $98 million deal. Jason Kidd turned down a three-year, $9.5 million offer from Dallas to accept a similar deal in New York. Jason Terry accepted a three-year, $15 million offer from Boston. And the Mavs were spurned in their attempts to bring back Steve Nash, who opted to push for a sign-and-trade deal that will send him to the Lakers.
The Cavaliers opted to go for Syracuse guard Dion Waiters with the fourth pick overall in last month’s Draft rather than opt for a small forward prospect like North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, who wound up going seventh to the Warriors. Cleveland needed a small forward to replace veteran unrestricted free-agent forward Antawn Jamison, who said he wouldn’t return next season. And the Cavs had plenty of cap room. But Roy opted to go with the team that initially drafted him in ’06 before sending him to Portland for guard Randy Foye, who’d been the seventh pick in the Draft, and cash.
Although Roy has looked good in workouts, including with University of Washington guard Tony Wroten Jr. (taken 25th, by Memphis) before the Draft, Lawrence acknowledges those are nothing like the grind of actual games, which wore Roy down in Portland. He came back numerous times from knee problems before both the team and his agents wanted, but that’s not an option any more.
“What the doctors have told us is he’s cleared without restrictions,” Lawrence said earlier Thursday, before Roy’s decision was finalized and made public. “He feels really good. I wouldn’t say that him working out replicates the grind of a season … but one of the things he’s adamant about is, I don’t want to come back and be just another player. He’s not coming back to be a 10, 15-minute guy. He wants to help a team. He’s not going to be chasing a ring.”