The Inbounds: Nervosa Brandon Roy

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Welcome to The Inbounds, touching on a big idea of the day. It could be news, it could be history, it could be a tangent, it could be love. OK, it’s probably not love. Enjoy.

For many, Brandon Roy’s return to the NBA is a joyous occasion, a celebration of a man getting to do the thing he was put on earth to do (or one of them, anyway). For others, it’s a sad moment as the Blazers go on without him, the promise of his time there turned into nothing more than dead money and YouTube clips while Roy jogs up and down the floor in Minnesota blue.

But for some like myself, Roy’s return is marked by one expression of humanity more than any other.

Fear.

I’m afraid for Brandon Roy. I’m afraid for the Timberwolves, and Blazers fans, and NBA fans, and doctors and lawyers and chiefs, but mostly, I’m afraid for Brandon Roy. Because I never, ever want to see him go through the misery of losing it all again.

I’ll never be as good at anything as Brandon Roy is at basketball. Not Super Smash Bros. which I am dominant at, nor grilling taco meat, another specialty. Certainly not writing, I think the standard of evidence is pretty clear in that regard. I’ve never done anything as well as Brandon Roy is at basketball, and certainly not as well as he once played the sport. And when you’re that good at it, when you’ve worked so hard to reach that point and all the fame and money that comes along with it, it starts to define you. And when Roy lost it, bit by bit, surgery by surgery, game by game, and head shake by head shake, you could see him losing a part of himself.

It was a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking scene that played out over the course of two years. The worst moment? The worst moment was that Mavericks playoff game. He came off the bench, full of fire and having gone through an emotional torrent both for himself and upon his team and coach, and cooked the Mavericks into a highlight reel. It was one of the most amazing playoff experience of the past ten years, and anyone in the building for that moment knows what it meant and how it felt.

And then it was over.

That’s what makes it the worst moment, because it fed so much hope. So many Blazers fans started to believe, saying “you never know” and spitting out the “heart of a champion” line. And that was good then, but overall, it was awful, because losing that is losing something you’ve given yourself to, it’s letting go of the ghost.

When I was 19, I fell for this girl in college, and I mean fell in that serious condition. It was getting to the point of no return where you’re drifting further from casually dating to “we have to figure out what this means” territory, which is a big deal when your biggest daily concern is that Psych 1 final or where you lost your beer bong. And after one particularly successful, incredible date, I stopped her in the parking lot mid-sentence and told her we should never see each other again. She asked me why. And I told her because if it ended now, nothing can take it away, it can’t end badly, and we’d both be able to hold on to how good it was at that particular moment.

She slapped me on the back of my head, said “No” and we went on.

That relationship did not end well.

I share this bit of nauseating collegiate drama with you to share this: I have the same fear for Brandon Roy. I want Brandon Roy to go away and never play basketball again, and that has nothing to do with how I feel about Roy’s explosive scoring game (I love it), nor the Minnesota Timberwolves (how much fun are they going to be?) nor the Portland Trail Blazers (it was time for them to grow up and move on).  I say it for the same reason I don’t want my son to grow up, because then he’ll experience disappointment, betrayal, and hurt.  Now, Roy’s a big kid and he knows what he’s doing. In all likelihood the worst thing that happens here is he simply plays out a few more years as a shell of himself, contributes to a few teams and leaves a mark as the veteran who showed flashes of the old magic.

But there’s that part of me that’s terrified of having to watch him go through losing the game again, to watch his fans have to see him deteriorate and break through no fault of his own again, to see Portland fans watching the hopes born in that 2008 team torn up in front of their eyes even though the team no longer exists.

I’m scared for Brandon Roy because this game gives joy and purpose to him and to millions of people who love watching him play, and yet fate has continually decided to drag him into an alley and beat him up for his lunch money and meniscus.

But we get over that fear, and we hope for the best, because the payout is that dagger three-pointer, that loop to the rim for the layup, that cold-blooded step-back. I’m not going to pretend that the odds are with Roy, they’re not. Nor am I going to pretend that his overcoming the injuries to succeed would represent a great human triumph. It wouldn’t.

But there’s a chance that he’ll get to play basketball again, make himself and millions of people happy (and himself and a handful of other people very rich), and at the end of the day, that’s worth the risk.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here biting my nails.

Report: Celtics reach out to former assistant Larranaga about joining Mazzulla’s staff

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The Boston Celtics are reportedly looking for a veteran assistant to put on the bench next to 34-year-old Joe Mazzulla, the man thrust into the head coach’s chair for a title contender in the wake of Ime Udoka’s suspension.

Who better than a guy who spent nine years on the Celtics’ bench? Boston reached out to Jay Larranaga, currently on the Clippers bench, about returning to the East Coast, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Clippers had no turnover on Tyronn Lue’s staff heading into this season. Mazzulla has become a trusted member of the Clippers staff, working a lot with the big me on the roster. However, if the Celtics back up the Brink’s Truck, the Clippers will not stand in his way if he wants to leave. It’s a question of comfort level, lifestyle, and of course money for Larranaga.

The Celtics made Mazzulla their interim head coach after an investigation found a “volume of violations” of team policy by Udoka, who had an improper relationship with a team staff member. So far the Celtics and Udoka have been able to keep the details of what happened under wraps, but league sources described the situation to NBC Sports as “ugly” and “messy,” especially if/when those details do find their way to the public.

For Celtics players, just getting back on the court, practicing Tuesday and focusing on basketball — not the turmoil around the franchise — was a good thing.

“Once we got out on the court, it was just nice to get back out the court and review our defense and to talk about offense and doing what we do,” Al Horford told the Associated Press. “It’s a good thing to just play basketball. That’s what we’re here for. It’s important to just start this thing back up again.”

Getting another coach on the bench will be important for the Celtics as well.

Hawks trade Harkless, second-round pick to Thunder for Vit Krejci

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The Atlanta Hawks just saved some money, getting under the luxury tax line. The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a second-round pick for their trouble of taking on a contract.

The Hawks have traded Moe Harkless and a second-round pick to the Thunder for Vit Krejci the teams announced (Shams Charania of The Athletic was first).

This saves Atlanta a little over $3 million, which moves them from above the luxury tax line to $1.3 million below it. While the almighty dollar was the primary motivation in the ATL, the Hawks also pick up a development project. Krejci showed a little promise in his rookie season, appearing in 30 games and averaging 6.2 points plus 3.4 rebounds a night, before having his knee scoped in April.

Krejci was on the bubble of making the team in Oklahoma City, now the Thunder pick up a second-round pick for a guy they might have waived anyway.

Harkless, 29, is on an expiring $4.6 million contract, which fits nicely into the Disabled Player Exception the Thunder were granted for Chet Holmgren’s season-ending foot injury.

The Thunder are expected to waive Harkless and buy him out, making him a free agent. However, they could keep him and see if another trade could net them another second-round pick.

Lonzo Ball says ‘I can’t run’ or jump; Bulls’ Donovan has to plan for extended absence

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Officially, Lonzo Ball will be out 4-6 weeks after getting his knee scoped this week.

However, this is his second surgery on his left knee this year — he had meniscus surgery in January, after which he was never able to return to the court — and there are concerns Ball could miss significant time again. And coach Billy Donovan has no choice but to plan for an extended absence.

Ball did a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday and it’s hard to come away from what he said overly optimistic. Rob Schaefer reported on the call for NBC Sports Chicago:

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have, like, no force and I can’t, like, catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said. “I did rehab, it was getting better, but it was not to a point where I could get out there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”

The symptoms are something Ball said he has never dealt with and have left doctors, in his words, “a little surprised.”

It’s never good when doctors are surprised. Ball said the doctors don’t see anything on the MRI, but there is clearly something wrong, so they are going in and looking to find the issue and fix it.

Ball has been diligent in his recovery work from the start, the problem was pain in his knee. Something was still not right after the first surgery. Whatever it is.

The 4-6 week timeline would have Ball back in early November, but you know they will be overly cautious with him after the past year. Coach Billy Donovan was honest — he has to plan for a season without Ball.

The Bulls need Ball in a deep and challenging East. He brings defense, pushes the pace in transition, and takes care of the rock. Chicago has other players who can do those things individually — Alex Caruso can defend, Coby White pushes in transition, Goran Dragic takes care of the ball — but the Bulls lack one player who can do all those things. At least they lack one until Ball returns.

Whenever that may be.

Deandre Ayton says he hasn’t spoken to coach Williams since Game 7

Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
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In a Game 7 against the Mavericks last May, Suns coach Monty Williams benched center Deandre Ayton, who ended up playing just 17 minutes in an ugly, blowout loss for Phoenix. When asked about it after the game Williams said, “It’s internal.”

Ayton and Williams have not spoken since then, according to Ayton.

Yikes. Remember that includes a summer where the Suns would not offer Ayton a max contract extension so he went out and got one from the Pacers, then the Suns instantly matched it. Ayton did not sound thrilled to be back in Phoenix on Media Day, and he was rather matter-of-fact about dealing with his coach.

It’s what every fan wants to hear — “this is just my job.”

Reporters asked Williams about this and he played it off, saying he hasn’t spoken with a lot of players yet.

It’s just day one of training camp, but there are a lot of red flags around the Suns: owner Robert Sarver being suspended and selling the team, Jae Crowder not in camp waiting to be traded, and now not a lot of communication between the team’s star center and its coach.

Maybe it all amounts to nothing. Maybe the Suns get on the court, Chris Paul looks rejuvenated, Devin Booker looks like Devin Booker, and none of this matters. But what had looked like a stable situation not that long ago now has a lot of red flags flying heading into the season, and that has to concern Suns fans.