Trail Blazers vs Suns Tuesday, 04/20/10 AT 07:00PM

Trio Takes The Place Of Roy

  1. Written by: caseyholdahl  / avg. rating: 5.0

    If there was anything positive to take from the seemingly endless string of gut punches endured during a season rife with injury, it was that the Portland Trail Blazers could be counted on to handle anything that was thrown their way.

    Even so, there was no talk of silver linings when news broke that Brandon Roy would undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee just days before the start of the playoffs.  Even a team as tough and tested as the Trail Blazers would be hard-pressed to endure that kind of adversity. After all, this was Brandon Roy, whose name conjures up notions of invincibility in Portland after four seasons of spectacular play.

    Once the initial shock wore off, however, the lessons learned throughout a season of pain and suffering started to once again pay dividends. Nobody felt sorry for themselves or reassessed their chances.  The Trail Blazers did what they’ve done all season long; accepted the situation and embraced the opportunity.

    “We know (playing without Roy) is going to be a challenge,” Head Coach Nate McMillan said. “Regardless of what we’ve done in the past without Brandon, it’s a new season. We’re going to have to do it again and have ourselves ready to go. So we’ve been without a lot of these guys all year long. If there is anything that’s good about this, it is that we do know we will be without Brandon and the guys will know they’re going to play.

    “We’re going to need all of our guys to have an impact. It can’t be LaMarcus and Miller. We’re going to need other guys to step up and make plays and shots.”

    The guys likely to bear the weight of that opportunity - Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless and Martell Webster – are undaunted by the prospect of replacing Roy, the seemingly irreplaceable player. In a season of stepping up, the latest challenge is simply business as usual.

    “Everything is opportunity when you are on the court,” said Fernandez, who has assumed the starting role at shooting guard. “B.Roy is a very good player, very good talent. I learn from him. It’s a tough situation for us but probably on the court with Brandon Roy out, probably more shots, but I’m ready for everything.”

    Because Roy is a rare talent whose production could be replaced by only a handful of individuals in the world, Fernandez scoffs at the notion that he alone would be the beneficiary of the shots left behind when Roy went to the bench.

    “I don’t think it’s my time,” said Fernandez, “I think it is time for Portland. This is no challenge for any one player because this year a lot of injury in the regular season and everybody has an opportunity. Right now we need to play hard every game and play together.”

    Portland’s willingness to play together, rather than use injuries solely as an opportunity to further individual goals, has been one of the keys to the Trail Blazers’ ability to remain competitive while enduring more than 300 missed games to injury. That spirit of camaraderie is impressive, and especially noteworthy on a team with a bevy of young, hungry players who are desperate to make a name for themselves.

    “I think covering for each other is what we’ve done all season,” said Bayless, who had one of the best games of his young career in Portland’s 105-100 Game One victory at Phoenix. “With all the injuries, that’s what we had to do is kind of cover for each other. We had Rudy hitting shots. We had Nic making shots. Juwan, just the way he plays and the inspiration he brings to this team everyday has definitely helped us out along the way.

    “Obviously we miss Brandon,” Bayless added. “Brandon is a cornerstone of this team and the franchise, but everybody feels like they can play.”

    Often times in the NBA, confidence comes with playing time, but Fernandez, Bayless and Webster – all of whom at varying times this season have found their own playing time scarce – have all remained confident, able and eager to make contributions.  

    Webster, who found minutes hard to come by after losing his starting position to Nicolas Batum, stayed prepared just as his coach had asked.

    “You go out there and give all of your effort,” Webster said. “You can’t think about anything else because at the end of the day, you have to go out there and play.”

    Fernandez, Bayless and Webster have done that, and will have to continue to do that in order for the season to continue – perhaps long enough to give their fallen teammate another opportunity to contribute.

    In the meantime, Portland will draw from the experience gained from a lifetime’s worth of injuries all wrapped up into one season, an unexpected “opportunity” that  turned a collection of talented individuals into a team better prepared for the challenges ahead.

    “I’ve always said be patient, opportunities are going to come,” McMillan said. “It’s a long NBA season and you just never know what is going to happen. We’ve had a number of injuries all year long. Our guys have been ready for those opportunities and they’ve taken advantage of it. Here’s another one.”

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