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Unpacking The Blazers' Brandon Roy Retirement Sham

When Brandon Roy decided to return to the NBA six months after retiring at age 27, it pretty much blew up any shred of verisimilitude the initial retirement had. Any remaining shred of doubt that the Portland Trail Blazers convinced Roy to retire so that the team could waive him via amnesty clause without the messy press coverage dropping a legend in his prime brings is now gone, thanks to Roy's comments at a Tuesday press conference.

Roy and the Minnesota Timberwolves, who agreed to a deal with the wing in late June, held a press conference to smile and set expectations on Tuesday. Roy didn't really protect the Blazers' medical staff in the course of discussing why he retired and came back so quickly. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda:

In retrospect, Roy suggests it was a decision prompted by a team doctor who recommended it was best for Roy and his damaged knees. It also was in the Blazers' best financial interests as well.

"It was never really officially my decision to retire, you know?" he said. "It was never a situation where I said, 'I'm done forever.' It's just more of a pause."

How the situation played out included initial reports that Roy would take a medical retirement, followed by a leak of news that the team would instead waive him under the amnesty clause because it'd be better for the salary cap. If Roy had truly been retiring, there wouldn't have been a difference. But if there was a chance of a quick comeback, Roy could potentially have done to Portland what Darius Miles did years ago, but with major larger ramifications. When players medically retire, their salaries are wiped off the books (but still paid) so long as the player isn't back in the NBA within a year.

At some point after the lockout ended, the Blazers decided that Roy's contract was too big a burden on their cap sheet. They knew better than any other team the dangers of medical retirement, and knew they had no other natural candidates for the amnesty clause. I'm not willing to believe a rather successful NBA franchise was legitimately torn on whether to roll the dice on whether a 27-year-old passionate about basketball would return to the game.

That's why the whole charade was so insulting: it was obvious what the Blazers wanted to do. And hey, it worked. Roy's exit was a tearful goodbye to a legend whose body wouldn't cooperate, and not a cold expulsion of an albatross. Congratulations to the Blazers for pulling off a public scam.

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