OKC Thunder defensive stalwart Andre Roberson returns to hardwood after two and half years in the feel-good story of the year.
The year 2020 hasn’t offered much to celebrate especially for basketball fans. The OKC Thunder was at the center of the storm when the NBA season was put on hold on March 11th following Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test. All of major league sports followed and people around the world were thrown into this terrifying pandemic where nothing was normal and felt like it never would be again.
This situation came on the heels of the NBA still recovering from the sudden and tragic death of Kobe and Gianna (Gia) Bryant. Another death marked the start of 2020 as long time NBA Commissioner David Stern passed away.
2020 was simply the worst year in most of our lives. But, slowly things are returning to some semblance of normalcy despite the continuing pandemic. Sports resumption provides hope that things will eventually approximate living like we used to. There are still hurdles to overcome but there finally is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The NBA worked diligently to create an environment where 22 teams could convene to resume the season and crown an NBA champion. Friday, the first scrimmage of three for the OKC Thunder occurred as they faced the Boston Celtics.
While fans delighted in having basketball to watch even if it was a scrimmage in a bubble this action signals that finishing a season now seems far more plausible than many believed.
Andre Roberson’s triumphant return to play
However, for as much as getting to watch two competitive teams on the court made NBA fans happy the game itself took a back seat to an event far more important at least for those of us in Thunder Nation.
And that was the return of Andre Roberson after two and a half years of struggle in an arduous battle of rehabilitation and constant setbacks.
If there was ever an NBA player who embodied perseverance Andre Roberson is that individual. Having been occupied with a personal matter I was unable to watch the game live but fortunately able to record it. As I sat watching the game and saw Roberson standing beside Billy Donovan ready to check in my throat tightened. Tears began to well up as the moment registered. It’s hard to even fathom how Dre was feeling as he stepped onto the hardwood.
Fittingly, his team and coaches all stood up and applauded when he checked in. Postgame Roberson spoke about his nerves and how they began ‘rattling’ when he learned he would play in the second half.
That the long journey back would come in a bubble at Walt Disney World almost seems entirely fitting – after all isn’t this the place where dreams come true?
As for how he looked – well, let’s just say those tears I was fighting were now flowing uncontrollably as it became crystal clear that Dre wasn’t just making his return — he’s is as good as he was pre-injury. In fact, the form on that 3-point shot should have some teams worried.
Let’s not forget this is the same player who was mocked and laughed at by the Rockets bench over his poor free-throw shooting. Albeit, shooting was always the issue with Dre and his wonky form only got more concerning as his confidence took a hit.
What we saw from him in this scrimmage game was a revamped shooting form and that bodes well for the Thunder.
The big question was how close his defense would be to his original prowess but it became obvious he is closer to 100 percent than not. He was captaining the squad on the floor, calling out and talking to his teammates.
There were deflections, forced turnovers, and copious changed shots when Dre was the main defender. The standout moment was a prototypical block on the backboard. That was what really sealed the belief Roberson is back and looking every bit as good defensively as he did before the injury.
After the game, Roberson was asked how he felt to finally see all his hard work pay off in his return to competitive ball.
“It was a lot of emotions, a lot of emotions, anxious, happy, overly ecstatic just to get back out there on that floor and hear coach call my name to get out there in the game.”
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As for those nerves, ARob said it took him a while to calm down asking the media if they noticed how emotional he was particularly in the first four minutes on the floor. He credited his teammates for their support and called the entire situation ‘a blessing’.
For those of us in Thunder Nation, we’re the ones feeling blessed today. We’ve been invested in his plight and felt every set back he suffered. Heck, we were even scared to pronounce he was back despite his coach and all his teammates saying how good he looked. Like ARob, we’d witnessed him almost ready to come back only for him to suffer another setback. It sort of became a thing – like no one here wanted to jinx him by proclaiming he was back.
Well, that’s no longer an issue as one of the most beloved OKC Thunder players in history has checked into a game, hit a 3-pointer, blocked a shot, and brought back that grin we’re all accustomed to seeing.
The Thunder rhythm and timing looked on point with the well-vaunted chemistry on display as they went on to easily win the scrimmage. Yet, for today, the only thing that matters is Andre Roberson is back playing and there isn’t anyone happier than Thunder Nation!
Welcome back Andre — we missed you!