MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Brandon Roy's balky knees have been holding up.
Now the Minnesota Timberwolves are truly going to put those valuable joints of his to the test.
"The preseason was great, but it's nothing like actually getting your name back in the books again for a real game," Roy said. "I'm excited. I've got some of my family coming into town. I'm just going to go out there, play hard and try to enjoy it."
When the Timberwolves host Sacramento on Friday night, Roy will take the court and complete a remarkable comeback from chronic pain in both of his knees that prompted his departure from Portland and assumed retirement from the NBA until a revival of his career this summer.
Roy predicted butterfly-like feelings during warm-ups and introductions, even if after tipoff his mindset will certainly hone in on beating the Kings rather than reflecting on his milestone. But as Roy quickly noted, this is simply one game of 82 scheduled.
In his case, that's not a cliche but a reality of how much the Timberwolves must rely on him for points from the perimeter. They'll have to be careful not to overuse him, but they'll also be without All-Star Kevin Love's 26 points per night. So the scoring is going to have to come from somewhere.
"He'll find out as we find out, but I think he has certainly shown us that in the game he still has the skills to do the things," coach Rick Adelman said. "Losing Kevin puts that much more pressure on him and everybody else on the team to do a little bit more. But I think that we have to judge it day by day. I don't think we can plan two weeks in advance. We just have to take it as it comes, and hopefully you have other guys ready to play if he can't go."
Adelman said he'll start at about 30 minutes per game and gauge his playing time as the season unfolds. Sitting him for too long, as Adelman discovered during one particular exhibition game when Roy sat for most of the second quarter, can be detrimental to his production, though, too.
"I think you need to get some type of rhythm where he is forgetting about fouls and he knows, 'This is when I am going to come out, and this is when I am going to go back in,'" Adelman said.
The 28-year-old Roy played in all seven preseason games and was on the floor more, he estimated this week, than any other time since his rookie year.
"It was good to get that rust off, get acclimated with the team, so I feel good," Roy said.
He took an opponent's knee to his right knee in the final preseason game last Friday and then had the same thing happen in practice after that, so he took two days off as a precaution. But by Wednesday he was back in full participation, without any concern about being ready for the opener. The key, now, will be to find a pace he's comfortable at that still allows him to be a significant contributor to this Wolves team that needs his steadying influence and outside shooting touch.
"I have a tendency to want to do a lot really fast, but I'm just trying to be patient and understand that it's a long season," Roy said. "I want to be peaking later in the year than I am early."
Roy worked out for two months last winter before deciding to try an increasingly popular but medically unproven procedure known as platelet-rich plasma therapy. It's basically an injection of a patient's own blood back into the body, to help heal degenerative joints. Kobe Bryant went to Germany before last season to have it done, and Roy has credited the technique for allowing him to work out hard and feel no day-after discomfort. His condition was good enough to persuade the Timberwolves to give him a two-year contract.
So with his body no longer a road block to being on the court, as it was for all of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season and for nearly half of the 2010-11 slate, the three-time All-Star and 2006-07 NBA Rookie of the Year has reached the point of his Wolves debut. Finally, the fans who decried the Roy-for-Randy Foye trade the team made on that draft day will have the chance to cheer him on.
"Brandon would not have come back, I don't think, if he felt deep down that he couldn't return to a level of play at or near where he once was," Timberwolves basketball boss David Kahn said.
That level, though, is yet to be defined.
"The NBA season is long and it's grueling, regardless of injury, so we're going to have to be smart, but I feel great," Roy said. "And again, I'm not going to put a cap on anything that I can do."
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