Injured Thunder defensive stopper Roberson closer to return

September 24, 2018
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Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook poses for a photo during an NBA basketball media day in Oklahoma City, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thunder defensive stopper Andre Roberson is inching closer to being able to play.

The Oklahoma City swingman missed the second half of last season with a ruptured left patellar tendon. He expects to be cleared for contact soon and back to full speed “around December.”

“There’s a return to basketball and there’s a return to performance, being back to my elite self on the defensive end and me just being cleared to play basketball is two different things,” he said Monday at media day. “And it’s going to be a process to kind of get back to where I was, just me being comfortable with my leg again and me getting back into the rhythm of basketball sitting out so long.”

General manager Sam Presti shied away from a timetable when asked about Roberson last week.

“I can’t tell you exactly when that’s going to be,” Presti said. “We don’t think we’re going to be without him very long, but again, this is medicine. This is human performance. This is body. So sitting up here saying, ‘This is when that’s going to happen,’ I can’t tell you.”

The 6-foot-7 Roberson was an all-defense second-team selection two seasons ago. In 39 games last season, he averaged 5.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals. Without him, the Thunder struggled to handle Utah’s Donovan Mitchell in a first-round series loss.

Star Russell Westbrook looks forward to Roberson’s return.

“I think it’s important, but there’s no rush, man,” Westbrook said. ”‘Dre, once he gets back, he’ll be back and ready to go. It’s the start of a new year for us, and we have a lot of different guys at different positions that have to be ready to step up and make things happen. But once ’Dre comes back, we pick him up right where he left off.”

Roberson was able to walk normally to and from the podium Monday, and even walked backward some down a hallway after he spoke.

“Just doing regular standing stuff, to bending knees, dribbling, shooting free throws, and extending my range to the 3-pointer,” he said. “Just slowly progressing. Just fundamentals of the basketball game. It’s just good to kind of touch the ball and keep it in my hands.”

Roberson struggled at times with the process. He took trips to Hawaii, Spain and Mexico to keep his mind off it at times.

“I dreaded it, but I’ve come to peace with myself now that I accept what is, and everything happens for a reason, and you’ve got to twist it in your favor to make it a positive light,” he said. “That’s what I’ve done along the way to help me accept it a little better.”

When he comes back, he’ll be on a team that was able to keep both Paul George and Jerami Grant in the offseason. The Thunder also added Dennis Schroeder in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The former Atlanta Hawks guard averaged 19.4 points and 6.2 assists last season.

“I feel like we’re a lot more versatile team this year,” Roberson said. “The game of basketball is changing in a way, and everybody is trying to adapt, and I feel like we’ve got a lot of pieces.”


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