MINNEAPOLIS — Might Minnesota fans finally see Brandon Roy in a Timberwolves uniform, five years after their team traded him away on draft night in 2006?
It could happen, despite Roy's two deteriorating knees, if ...
- Portland pays him $49 million for his contract's remaining three years and releases him through an "amnesty" provision in the new labor agreement, which allows teams to wipe one current player's contract from its salary-cap books once during the 10-year agreement's term.
- The Wolves then make a winning bid to assume a portion of Roy's contract in a "modified waiver process." That process will allow teams under the salary cap a chance to acquire amnesty players — a group that could include Roy, Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis and others — rather than let them sign with the contending team of their own.
The Blazers are expected to release Roy, because his bad knees — one reason why then-basketball boss Kevin McHale traded his draft rights for Randy Foye — and diminished game don't justify his $15 million salary.
The question is: At what price is he worth the gamble?
Is that number $3 million, $4 million? Will bidding wars materialize for such released players among teams with too much salary-cap space and not enough players?
At the moment, half of the NBA's 30 teams are at least $6 million under what is expected to be a $58 million salary cap this season. The Wolves' payroll will approach $53 million after signing their draft picks.
ESPN.com reported Sunday night that new Wolves coach Rick Adelman has a "level of interest" in acquiring Roy, a three-time All-Star who signed an $82 million contract extension in 2009 and now is playing basically on knees that rub bone against bone with no surgical repair possible.
The Wolves also have connections of sorts to Roy in three ways: Both Adelman and President of Basketball Operations David Kahn live in Portland and have seen Roy play countless times from near and afar. New assistant coach Bill Bayno — hired away from the Blazers — has seen Roy play nightly for his entire NBA career.
Roy, 27, also fits two of the team's biggest needs: He's a shooting guard who can really handle the ball — something they lack with Wes Johnson and Martell Webster — and he's a veteran presence who also makes winning decisions when the game is in doubt.
He played only 47 games last season, when he underwent surgery on both knees at midseason and returned to a diminished role that he didn't easily accept. He no longer is an All-Star who can play 37 minutes a night, but possibly he could still be a valuable piece if used in a limited way at the right moments.
He likely intrigued many teams in last spring's playoffs, when he scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and led the Blazers back from 20 points behind to beat eventual NBA champion Dallas in a first-round game.
For those 12 minutes, he looked like that three-time All Star.
For an entire season — or rather, a 66-game one?
That's apparently what the Wolves and other NBA teams with money to spend — the new deal will require every team to spend at least $49 million of that $58 million salary cap — must decide.
When exactly this process will play out is unknown right now. The NBA expects its free-agency period to begin the same day training camps open — Dec. 9 — but there's a chance the new labor agreement won't be completely negotiated, drafted, ratified and signed until only days before that date.