OKC Thunder: Optimism growing for Andre Roberson return

Head Coach Billy Donovan and Andre Roberson #21 of the OKC Thunder argue with a official. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Head Coach Billy Donovan and Andre Roberson #21 of the OKC Thunder argue with a official. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

A second report bolsters optimism for OKC Thunder defensive specialist Andre Roberson’s return.

Just prior to the season going on hiatus OKC Thunder defensive specialist Andre Roberson was gearing up for a return. Although rumors had swirled around Roberson’s return for what seemed like an eternity they never came to fruition.

The guard-forward ruptured his patellar tendon in the third quarter of the OKC Thunder match in Detroit on January 27, 2018. Putting in perspective how long ago that was — the Pistons were still playing in the famous Palace!

The long journey back was riddled with numerous medical setbacks. After healing from the initial injury, a second procedure was required to reduce the swelling in his knee (specifically – the synovial membrane). Next, a suture had to be removed as it was causing irritation and likely was adding to his knee swelling.

Undeterred, Roberson once again hit his rehab with a vengeance with an eye on returning for the 2018-19 training camp. That effort was thwarted when he experienced an avulsion fracture.

How likely is OKC Thunder forward’s Andre Roberson’s return?

Since then various reports of his impending return were announced but never came to pass. At this season’s training camp it was like experiencing deja vu. Once more the forward spoke at media day on being ready and although he participated at camp he never played a minute of preseason ball.

Throughout training camp and preseason, Billy Donovan stated the team was being cautious to gauge how Dre recovered after contact drills. Then inexplicably the coach dropped the bomb Roberson wasn’t ready and implied the issue was partially a mental block.

Over the course of the season, ARob jettisoned between OKC and his home continuing his efforts to regain his pre-injury physicality and presumably regain his confidence. Hey, any long term injury is tough but experiencing the roller coaster of setbacks is debilitating.

At the end of February, he returned from his self imposed hiatus fueling rumors again for his return. Adding to the belief this time would be the charm was Roberson’s April 17th interview with Buffs TV (Colorado University podcast). Nate Tomlinson asks him when fans can expect to see him back on the court (25:41 of video).

His response offered more optimism as he revealed just prior to the suspension he was about to play some G-League games. His plan had been to get his rhythm back with the OKC Blue then return to the varsity club to gear up for the playoffs. Roberson further stated the pandemic gave him more time to continue rebuilding but the downside was not being able to take the next step by getting in time on the court with teammates.

Although we’ve been here before this time might be the real deal. Erik Horne of the paid-for subscription Athletic writes league sources confirmed:

"“Roberson would be ready to play now if the season hadn’t stopped.”"

Sure, it’s hard not to cite the ‘boy who cried wolf’ analogy. After all, we’ve heard this same optimism from both Roberson and the team before. But could this time be different?

On the positive side of the equation, considering the unusual situation it might work in Roberson’s favor. The extended training camp will allow him time to gain rhythm on the hardwood in five on five situations and get a feel for the court. Those are the two things he cites as his next steps.

With training camp slated to begin on June 30th, there should be the potential for the OKC Thunder to get in some scrimmages sooner.

Once the team is in Orlando they’ll be eight games for Donovan to test him out and get Roberson some in-game experience with copious new teammates.

On the negative side of the equation, we’ve lamented how difficult it will be for players to endure a three-month layoff and he’s approaching two and half years of not playing competitive ball. Plus there are the obvious concerns. Will he come close to resembling the player he once was and even if he is  — at this point with other defensive specialists like Luguentz Dort and Terrance Ferguson on the club is that enough to garner playing time?

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The optimist in all of us is pulling for the miracle. Nothing would make us happier than witnessing the defensive master Andre Roberson back and shocking everyone with an improved shooting stroke and the ability to hit over 50 percent of his free throws.

This iteration of the OKC Thunder has capable shooters and often have at least two playmakers on the floor. Chris Paul is the master at putting his teammates in the perfect spots on the court. That would benefit Roberson who would be the fifth scoring option on the court.

If this isn’t fool’s gold and Roberson is even close to the player he was prior to the injury he adds value to this Thunder squad. Having the ability to put an All-Defensive player on the court even for short spells could prove advantageous especially when the game slows to half-court ball in the postseason.

While it’s probably not wise to assume Roberson will definitely play, this is the most confident he’s sounded since the injury.

Ultimately, this feels like a ‘now or never’ scenario. Safe to say, Thunder Nation will be pulling for the former.

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