As the Thunder get ready for training camp in July, Sam Presti is more positive about the status of Andre Roberson than at any point over the last two years. Last Sunday, during a conference call with the media, Presti said, "From a health standpoint, he's doing really"well. The issues that we're facing is that we have not had the opportunity to see him on the court in real basketball activity because everything is relegated to the 1-on-0 still."
"I think we're in a better place than we were March 11th, that's for sure, but we don't know exactly where he'll be once we get down to actually participating in contact and going through team practices and things of that nature." Up until last week, the Thunder and Roberson had been cautious when it came to the topic of him getting back in the lineup.
During media day, red flags went up when Roberson wouldn't put a percentage on how close he was to playing basketball. Then came the Blue and White scrimmage, and a team spokesman said the Thunder were being cautious with Roberson's minutes.
Roberson would take his rehab to Los Angeles a few weeks later, before coming back to Oklahoma City in March. I asked Billy Donovan if this was a case of a player being cleared by the medical staff but choosing not to play.
"I don't want to sit there, say he was cleared to play, and elected not to."... "I think with the medical staff and with Andre, the assessment after days of training camp after workouts things that he was complaining about or dealing with just didn't allow him to play."
Since Roberson's absence, the Thunder seems to have found his replacement in rookie Luguentz Dort. Dort is not only a bonified NBA defender, but he's also a 30 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
While Thunder fans appreciate Roberson's defensive prowess, they have long cringed over his inability to hit the corner three consistently. Dort provides hopes, but Roberson's experience is valuable when the postseason starts.
If you're like me, you have erred on the side that Roberson's days with the Thunder are over; however, Presti says if he's healthy, he will play.
"I think it's clear that if we're able to get him back, he's a winning player, so he will help us if we can... "But we also have to kind of ease our way into that to get the answers that you're asking.
There is hesitation in that last statement, yet, if the Thunder are going down this road, the only way to play to Roberson is to start him. He gives you zero offense coming off the bench and assuming he can get back into game-shape, you could split his minutes with Dort and have him educated the Rookie on the finer points of NBA defense.
Plus, in a pinch, you could use whoever is playing better as a defensive stopper late in games. Donovan is out of routine just like his players, so it's not crazy to expect him to go deeper into his bench or try different lineups over the eight regular-season games to see what's working.
Roberson is well-liked by his teammates, and they want to see him contributing on the court. They also understand the business of the NBA and know it's now or never for him to get his shot.
Potental Starting Lineup:
PG Chris Paul
SG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SF Andre Roberson
PF- Danilo Gallinari
C- Steven Adams