Brandon Roy took some heat last week when, after a loss at Sacramento, he shared his feelings about the lack of importance of the Trail Blazers' remaining games.
Roy broke a sort of unofficial code of silence among professional athletes. And I give him just a little credit for it. Instead of sticking to the script, repeating the hackneyed phrases about 'giving 110 percent,' Roy told the truth.
It seems to me there are a lot of media people who complain about athletes not ever coming clean - not saying what's on their mind. Or of sugarcoating and sanitizing their remarks. Then, when someone finally offers some straight talk, he gets ripped for it.
These games, for an All-Star whose team is eliminated from playoff contention, don't mean squat. Roy has had a terrific season, and he aspires to leading a team deep into the playoffs. He has championship dreams.
Sorry, folks, as much as you'd like to think that he's staying up nights trying to figure out ways for his team to finish 41-41, it's not the case. Unless you're a fringe player trying to make an impression with the coach, these games are meaningless.
Talk all you want about a springboard into next season, about setting a tone for next year. Go ahead, kid yourself. There's not even much of a carryover from the way a team plays at the end of the regular season to the way it plays in the playoffs a few days later, let alone from one season to the next, with the personnel changes all teams make.
I can see why these games are important to fans. They've paid a lot for tickets, they buy gear, and they're emotionally invested. Much of the time, even in the playoffs, they're more emotional about the outcomes than the players are.
I can see why these last few games are important to the franchise. The club is trying to sell season tickets.
And I can see why these games are so important to Nate McMillan. The guy seems obsessed with finishing at the .500 mark. This is his ninth year as a head coach in the league, and he's finished at or above .500 just twice. So you have to understand, this is a big deal for him.
But don't for a moment think that winning 41 or 42 games this season, compared to winning 38 or 39 games, has anything to do with how the Blazers will play next year.
Next season will be about establishing Greg Oden as a premier NBA center. Just as this season was about establishing Brandon Roy as an All-Star.
That was a big deal. And that mission was accomplished. And no matter how Roy feels about the way the season has turned out, when he's out on the floor, as you could see in the Dallas game Saturday night, he's competing his tail off.
I'm glad that Roy has the kind of long-range vision that leads to an understanding of where he wants to go with this team. He knows what's important.
And is honest enough to say it.