I was devastated when Andre Roberson went down in January of 2018 — devastated! Though he remained the last guy you wanted shooting if your life was on the line, his ability on the other end was finally provoking earnest Defensive Player of the Year discussions. He got a good contract, was on a team that didn’t need him to shoot, and looked like a guy that made sense in Sam Presti’s imagination of the future.
Two-and-a-half-years later and we haven’t seen him since.
While it looks increasingly likely Roberson will make his return to action in Orlando, I find myself unable to fully embrace the DRE FINNA BE HIS OLD SELF mentality. I’d love to throw caution to the wind and join the party but there are a few minor details holding me back. Little things like it being NINE-HUNDRED DAYS since Dre appeared in an NBA game.
Also, the Thunder are 16-5 this season with Lu Dort in the starting lineup.
Stuff like that.
Dance with the Lu that brought you
The craziest part in all this (to me) was the silly belief I held that Dort was definitely going to be the starter moving forward. It felt like a foregone conclusion (to me) but apparently the 2-spot is actually up for grabs in Orlando.
Per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman:
“Lu’s done a really good job. For me to sit here and say that he’s starting when we get back to playing, I wouldn’t say that. I’m really trying to be open-minded to let these guys play and compete and find out where they’re all at and how well they’re playing with one another.”Billy Donovan
Like I mentioned above — the Thunder are 16-5 when Dort is in the starting lineup and he just got a shiny new contract to remain in OKC long-term. He’s a dog on defense, makes the hustle plays no one else wants to make and has shown flashes of offense that are, at worst, equal to anything Dre could give you on that end.
Billy said it himself — Dort has “done a really good job.”
Let’s not get cute and re-invent the wheel here. Luguentz Dort is the wheel (to me).
Why Mess With a Good Thing?
Outside of all the physical reasons I’m leery of Roberson’s immediate effectiveness, how about the fact he wasn’t on the floor when the Thunder became the Cinderella story of the NBA this season? The guys had a pretty good thing going there before coronavirus ruined the fun.
I mean, there are only two players on the current Thunder roster Dre has ever played with (Steven Adams and Terrance Ferguson). It’s difficult to imagine he’ll immediately share chemistry with a team that looks nothing like it did the last time he put on the jersey. Get him in where he fits in — anything else would be a disservice to a team that constantly gushes over how well it plays together.
Call me a cynic, but…
The above reasoning aside, I just don’t think it’s possible Roberson will magically return to form as if LeBron James returned his skills by way of a glowing basketball (that’s a Space Jam reference). This is a man whose only true utility on a basketball court is provided by his athleticism/lateral quickness and he just missed more than 2.5 years of action.
The organization is certainly selling the story that he looks like himself again — but is that even how human bodies work? It’s certainly not how mine works. (Dre and I are similar, right?)
If you’re going to put Roberson on the floor in Orlando, I think you start smaller — much smaller — like, say, Abdel Nader’s 16 minutes per game. That feels like a good place to start, right? Do we have to jump straight to Dort losing his job?
In any case, I’m excited for Dre (I am!) and can’t wait to see him back out on the floor. It’s been a long time coming and he can help the Thunder at Disney World if he’s anywhere close to the defender he used to be.
I just don’t think he should start, you know?