MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Brandon Roy had just wrapped up a lengthy workout with a spirited game of five-on-five and gathered with several of his new Minnesota Timberwolves teammates near halfcourt.
“Let’s run it back,” Roy said, with several others agreeing. “One more.”
That’s when Wolves assistant Shawn Respert stepped in, waving his arms and telling everyone that they were done for the day. A little more than two weeks away from the beginning of training camp, Roy’s chronic knees are feeling great. And it’s up to the Timberwolves coaching and medical staff to try to keep it that way.
“This is the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Roy said Thursday. “The reason why I say that is I’m able to improve. I’m able to come in the gym and work on my game and get better. Where I felt that the last couple years in Portland I was just doing my best to maintain.
“That’s the biggest thing I’m excited about is I’m in the gym, I’m working hard and coach has to tell me to stop playing instead of me saying, ‘OK that’s enough. I’m feeling my knees.'”
That’s going to be the balancing act the Wolves perform with Roy, in training camp and in all likelihood for much of this season. The former Portland Trail Blazers All-Star had his contract cleared with the amnesty clause before last season, and he abruptly retired because of knee issues that derailed a brilliant young career.
After sitting out last season, Roy’s knees felt good enough for him to come back. With the Timberwolves in search of a veteran presence at shooting guard for one of the youngest teams in the league, they signed Roy to a two-year deal and now are working to get him prepared for the grind of camp and the long NBA season.
Roy has been in town since the start of September to make sure his son could start school here on time, and he’s taken advantage of the early arrival to throw himself into workouts and establish a new routine aimed at minimizing the pain in his knees.
“I set a plan for myself going into the season and so far I haven’t had any setbacks,” Roy said.
Roy has been working primarily with Respert and David Adelman, as well as the strength and conditioning staff to get ready, and the coaches see Roy’s approach as a breath of fresh air for a team that had too many young players who didn’t know what it takes to be successful in the NBA.
“We know we had a situation here last season where it was really difficult for guys to be self-starters,” Respert said.
The team jettisoned Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and Darko Milicic in the offseason, bringing in Roy, Chase Budinger and Andrei Kirilenko to try to inject a little more maturity and professionalism into a young team with a core of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic.
“With Brandon it’s just a healthy attitude where he wants to see how much he can push himself to that limit before we have to shut him down and be smart about it,” Respert said. “He’s been spectacular so far as far as the mentality, his toughness, his willingness to do what we ask him to do and still find that little bit of room to do a little bit more.”
He spends about 30 minutes before each workout going through exercises to get ready, and he said he’s lifting more weights than ever, as well.
“I try to come in early to build my quads, do some work on my calves. I’m going to have to do that for the rest of my career,” Roy said. “That’s just become normal to me. Nothing special. Just some weight room stuff, some different things to get my quads flaring and keep my joints loose.”
Roy worked out on Thursday with Budinger, Pekovic, free agent Anthony Tolliver and several others who have been invited to training camp. Pekovic has lost eight pounds and put on more muscle to his considerable frame and said that his recovery from offseason surgery to remove bone spurs in his right ankle is right on schedule.
“All this bothering that I got at the end of the season, it was really bad,” Pekovic said. “I couldn’t play like I was playing during the season so for now it’s great. I hope it will stay like this all the time.”
Tolliver is still waiting for a contract, either from the Wolves or another team. He spent the summer in Minnesota and hopes to return to the Timberwolves, especially after the addition of Roy and several other veterans to make the team a playoff contender.
“I think it’s a good risk to take,” Tolliver said of Roy. “Whenever you’re dealing with someone at that level of talent, a lot of teams shy away from it. But I think they made a good decision.”
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