Roy rekindles lost motivation
On the NBA
The quotes were startling, especially coming from the Trail Blazers' All-Star guard, captain and team leader.
After Portland's listless 103-86 loss at Sacramento last Friday night, Brandon Roy's comments in the daily's game story read this way:
'It's just tough to get up for games that don't mean anything. … Our season was over after we were eliminated (from playoff contention). It's tough to get up and play with all that attitude when you really aren't playing for anything. But it's my job to get the guys ready to go, and to find something to play for.'
Interesting, in that coach Nate McMillan and General Manager Kevin Pritchard have in recent weeks stressed the importance of finishing at .500, or with a winning record, to accentuate the progress made since going an NBA-worst 21-61 just two years ago.
Roy had appeared particularly unmotivated through the first half against Sacramento, in which he didn't score a point and didn't even attempt a field goal. He was better in the second half (12 points, four assists), but his lack of passion seemed out of character.
Saturday night, the fire was back as Roy scored 23 points and led Portland to a spirited home victory over Dallas.
Before the game, McMillan gently reminded his star that the Blazers indeed have something left to play for.
'Brandon was frustrated with what was going on and how he had played,' McMillan says. 'The frustration kind of took over. That happens. But (against Dallas), he was ready to go. He showed up and played well. The main thing was, he responded.'
Roy says his comments 'may have been taken the wrong way,' but implied they weren't made entirely out of frustration.
'Every team is tired right now,' Roy says. 'The teams that earn the right to be in the playoffs, it rejuvenates them. We don't have that to look forward to. So we have to do the best we can to keep pushing out, even though we're tired.
'Our guys are a little fatigued, not only physically, but mentally. I don't mean for it to sound like an excuse, but we're a young team, and there's no postseason to look forward to.'
Finishing with a winning record 'is a great goal to have,' he says, 'but we're still going to end the season at the same time as the Sonics, and they'll have lost (nearly) 65 games. I play for the postseason. Hopefully at the end of my career, I'll look back and say I had only one losing season, and it was my rookie year.
'I think everybody in this locker room understands exactly what I meant. I'm going to come out and play the best I can every night.'
For a franchise that hit rock bottom two years ago, a winning record is a tangible goal. Not anything crucial, but something to shoot for.
'I agree with Brandon, but at the same time, we can't make that excuse,' center-forward Channing Frye says. 'What happens (in the future) when we go for a playoff run and we face one of the bottom five teams? You can't say you're not motivated. You have to be a professional, go out there and get yourself up.'
Finishing with a winning mark, or at .500, 'would be huge,' Frye says. 'It would be something we could take pride in.'
The Blazers are pros, with each of the regulars earning more than $1 million per season. They owe it to the fans, to their employer, to themselves to give it a good shot every night.
With his performance against Dallas - and almost every game this season - Roy showed that he understands all of that.
• The Blazers have had an uncanny ability to win close games this season, going an NBA-best 10-2 in games decided by three points or fewer and 5-2 in overtime games.
'We have a lot of fight in us,' point guard Steve Blake says. 'Whenever we've been down, we fight back.'
Having a player like Roy, who can break down a defense off the dribble, is a big part of that, too. Roy beat Dallas veteran Jason Kidd - a four-time all-defensive first-team selection - time and time again Saturday. With the score tied at 101-101 inside the final minute, Roy drove past Kidd and set up LaMarcus Aldridge with a layup and a decisive three-point play.
Early in the season, when Kidd was with New Jersey, Roy had played timidly in the final minute and allowed Kidd to make a couple of big plays at the end of the Nets' come-from-behind 106-101 victory.
'This time, I tried to stay aggressive,' Roy says. 'When I got a step on him, I tried to cut him off so he'd have to either foul me or give me the lane. The main thing was, I tried not to shy away from him, and I was able to make a couple of plays on him.'
• If they are to contend for the playoffs next season, the Blazers must become a better road team. While they are an impressive 27-13 at home going into tonight's Rose Garden finale against Memphis, the Blazers are 13-27 away from home. Last season, when they posted an overall mark of 32-50, they were 14-27 on the road.
• After shooting better than 50 percent from 3-point range and ranking among the top two in the league in that category most of the season, James Jones has fallen on hard times of late, making only 11 of 41 attempts (.268) in the last dozen games to fall to .431 for the season.
'It's the law of averages,' says the 6-8 forward, and he's right.
A career .385 3-point shooter - and only .395 on all field-goal attempts through his first four NBA seasons - Jones wasn't going to continue to hit half of his treys through an entire season.
'A lot of times you get caught up with how you've been shooting lately and forget about all the work you put in before and after practice that got you to the high point,' says Jones, who is .432 overall from the field.
Over the last month, he says, 'It's been a constant battle to try to get my rhythm back. … Of course, you'd like to shoot well the entire season, but these things happen. I won't be the first player to wane down the stretch.'