Up until the night before training camp last season, the Blazers thought their All-Star guard Brandon Roy would play for them. And then he made the difficult decision to retire from basketball.
"This has just been a tough year, my most difficult as a Blazer," he said. "I tried to make the most of things. I can definitely say I honestly tried. I've given this team my best."
Roy sounded defeated and resigned to the fact that his body just broke down on him. He would have to retire from basketball at the age of 27, when most players were hitting their prime. LeBron James won his first title this season at the same age.
But maybe watching the 34-year-old Kobe Bryant this past season rejuvenated Roy, who is currently planning his return to the game of basketball, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Bryant had a blood spinning procedure performed on his arthritic right knee in Germany during the lockout, and it seems as though he's found the Fountain of Youth. Or the basketball version of baseball's Tommy John surgery.
While still one of the game's elite scorers, Bryant's numbers had been slowly declining since the 2005-06 season. During the 2010-11 season, Bryant's scoring average dropped nearly two points to 25.3, his lowest total in 10 years. He also played his fewest minutes since his second season in the NBA.
But last season was an offensive renaissance for Bryant. He had his highest scoring average in five years, competing with Kevin Durant for the scoring title until the final game of the season, and finished second to James in postseason scoring average. Bryant also played five more minutes per game than the previous season.
Roy just had that same knee procedure done, and it appears the NBA is filled with believers. Roy already has suitors from the Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers—all playoff teams last year —as well as a reported two-year offer from the rising Minnesota Timberwolves. The Golden State Warriors are also interested.
It's unclear how much money Roy will demand, but that amount of interest alone should tell you that a legitimate comeback is a very real possibility. Roy isn't having to settle for the Phoenix Suns like Michael Redd did this past season. Roy, who averaged 19.0 points per game in his five seasons, is positioning himself to be an important piece on a title contender.
It seems as though teams are choosing to remember how he single-handedly beat the eventual champion Mavs during the 2011 playoffs, and not how he couldn't even play basketball last year.