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.

WNBA veteran Chasity Melvin joins Hornets’ G-League team coaching staff

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Chasity Melvin has been hired by the Charlotte Hornets’ G League team, the Greensboro Swarm, as an assistant coach.

She becomes the first female coach in Hornets and Swarm history.

The former North Carolina State standout was the 11th overall selection in the 1999 WNBA draft. She played 12 seasons in the WNBA and was an All-Star in 2001.

Melvin was part of the NBA Assistant Coaches Program, which prepares current and former NBA, WNBA and G League players for coaching careers. Former program participants include James Posey (Cavaliers), Jerry Stackhouse (Grizzlies) and Vin Baker (Bucks).

Her hire comes one day after Kristy Toliver became the first active WNBA player to become an NBA assistant when she joined the Washington Wizards.

Other female assistants in the NBA include Becky Hammon with the Spurs and Dallas’ Jenny Boucek.

 

Timberwolves fans boo Jimmy Butler, Tom Thibodeau at home opener

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How is Tom Thibodeau doing in Minnesota tonight?

Friday night is the Timberwolves home opener — a big production where every player is introduced and the crowd is hyped. How hyped? Derrick Rose got a surprising amount of love from the fans.

However, the reception for Jimmy Butlerwho has demanded a trade out of Minnesota, thrown a tirade during practice, and generally been disruptive — and coach/GM Tom Thibodeau (blamed by many for creating and dragging out this situation) both heard it from fans.

Watching the broadcast you could hear some boos, but the pumped-up in-arena entertainment noise on that feed made it hard to hear anything clearly. In the arena were a few cheers mixed in there for Butler, although mostly he was booed. Loudly.

Thibodeau didn’t get even that much love.

Timberwolves fans were indiscriminate and were ready to boo anyone who ever pissed them off — enter Kevin Love.

The boos for Butler subsided as the game went on.

The coach and star player getting booed maybe motivate owner Glen Taylor to step in and force the situation, but probably not. At this point how much more embarrassing is it going to get? If the Timberwolves get off to a slow start this season because of the chemistry, that might be the tipping point.

Right now, Butler trade talks are dormant. This — and these boos — are the status quo.

But everything is fine.

Mike D’Antoni on Rockets’ defense: “I don’t see it like falling so far off. I don’t see it.”

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Last season the Houston Rockets’ defense allowed 105.7 points per 100 possessions, seventh best in the NBA. After the All-Star break they allowed just 103.8 per 100, fourth best during that stretch. By the end of the season, the Rockets switched every screen on- and off-ball (something they felt they needed to handle the Warriors in the playoffs) and leaned on defensive minded role players such as Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. It got them within a game — within a half, really, the Rockets led at half of Games 6 and 7 vs the Warriors — of reaching the NBA Finals and almost certainly bringing home a title.

This season, the conventional wisdom was the Rockets would take a big step back defensively. Ariza and Mbah a Moute left as free agents, replaced on some level by James Ennis (a quality defender), Carmelo Anthony (not so much) and Michael Carter-Williams. Defensive-focused assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik retired, adding to the losses.

That narrative was fed opening night when Anthony Davis did whatever he wanted on his way to 32 points, Elfird Payton (yes, Elfrid Payton) put up a triple-double, and the Pelicans scored at a 124.8 points per 100 pace in blowing the Rockets out.

Mike D’Antoni doesn’t see the season going that way. Speaking to  Sam Amick of The Athletic he defended the team’s defense this season.

I think we’re even deeper this year, so we can have fresher guys on the floor… Trevor and Mbah a Moute were big parts of (Houston’s switching defense), but it’ll be taken up by Michael Carter-Williams. He’s a very good defensive player. James Ennis, who has energy and can play defense, and has all kinds of energy, to Eric Gordon, who will play with Chris and James a little bit more. So I don’t see it like falling so far off. I don’t see it. ‘Melo and the guys are smart enough (to know that) by switching it helps them too. They don’t have to fight through screens and all that. We’re just switching everything to try to keep guys in front. We have a nice philosophy, I think, where players understand what we’re trying to do.

The only thing that’s really changed is that (assistant coach) Roy (Rogers) has the (defensive) voice, in film sessions, talking to them, and (former assistant) Jeff (Bzdelik) had the voice (last season, before unexpectedly leaving during the summer). We all sat down to figure out what we wanted to do defensively, what were the best matchups, talking to Chris and James and PJ about, ‘OK, who you guarding tonight, and what do you think?’ And they’ll figure it out. But at the end of the day, the information still flows exactly the same.”

While the system may be the same, the players executing it are not. Carter-Williams was just lost and a mess defensively in the opener. Anthony will be better than some think as a team defender during the regular season (not good, but not a complete dumpster fire), but he can be exploited in a playoff series (Utah hunted him out in the first round last season, and it worked). P.J. Tucker is a fantastic defender, as is Chris Paul, but both are a year older and not getting faster.

Opening night was an aberration — the Rockets are not that bad on either end of the floor. It’s just one game and every team will have a few clunkers over the course of 82. The Rockets will play better against the Lakers in LeBron James‘ home opener Saturday night (that will not be an easy game for Houston by any measure).

Right now it feels like the Rockets are headed for a step back defensively this season, and with that their margins against the Warriors get even smaller. We’ll see over time if D’Antoni knows best.

Russell Westbrook out vs. Clippers Friday night, second game he’s missed

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The Thunder offense struggled on opening night, scoring less than a point per possession (96.2 per 100 possessions, to be specific). While the Thunder got out and ran a decent amount, 18.6 percent of their possessions started in transition, they scored just 0.88 points per possession on those chances (stats via Cleaning the Glass). On spot-up jump shots, they shot scored just 0.67 points per possession (via Synergy Sports) and they shot 27.8 percent from three in the part of the game that mattered.

How much of that was the Thunder offense missing their engine in Russell Westbrook, and how much of that was going against the solid defense and length of the Golden State Warriors?

We may find out Friday night because Westbrook is out again, still recovering from arthroscopic surgery on right knee back on Sept. 12. Royce Young of ESPN broke the news.

That means again most of the offense will flow through Paul George, which worked reasonably well but he needs more help from other players. The Clippers’ defense was fairly good opening night, and they played Denver close, but couldn’t score enough and lost a lead down the stretch, dropping their season opener.

What really matters is this gives us another chance to watch Westbrook try to sneak-snack on the bench.