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Thunder journal: Writing on the wall for Roberson's season

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Oklahoma City's Andre Roberson watches from the bench during a recent game  at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Thunder coach Billy Donovan offered a hint Thursday that the injured Roberson will not play this season. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma City's Andre Roberson watches from the bench during a recent game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Thunder coach Billy Donovan offered a hint Thursday that the injured Roberson will not play this season. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

On Thursday, Thunder coach Billy Donovan gave strong indication that Andre Roberson won't play this season.

Starting with Detroit on Friday, the Thunder has four games remaining in the regular season and at least one first-round playoff series to come, but Roberson has not made enough progress in his rehab from surgery on the patellar tendon in his left knee to be an option.

"He’s not even doing anything in practice," Donovan said Thursday. "He is running. I’ve got nothing medically from anybody that says, 'Hey listen, this guy is nearing or approaching being able to play.'"

Donovan said the plan was to try to get Roberson some rehab assignments with the G League Oklahoma City Blue. But with Roberson not close to being able to play and the Blue's season ended, that plan expired.

Since rupturing his left patellar tendon on Jan. 27, 2018, Roberson has had surgery to repair the rupture (Jan. 28, 2018), arthroscopic surgery (May 29, 2018) to reduce inflammation, and two setbacks in his rehab.

The first setback was announced Oct. 4, 2018, when the Thunder said a suture from Roberson's initial surgery was creating irritation and discomfort. Roberson underwent a non-arthroscopic procedure to alleviate that discomfort and was given a re-evaluation date of two months.

Roberson looked like he was making significant progress in his rehab late in November, showcasing sharp lateral movements and cuts in a post-practice setting. The avulsion fracture was announced that same day, Nov. 30. The Thunder said Roberson would be re-evaluated in six weeks, but never gave a timetable for his return to on-court activity.

Since then, Roberson hasn't had any reported setbacks, but also hasn't made enough progress to return to contact practices. Since the Thunder signed Roberson to a three-year, $30 million contract in July 2017, the 27-year-old has played 39 games.

Donovan was careful Thursday, making it clear that he hadn't received a word from the Thunder's medical staff that Roberson was officially ruled out for the season.

"But obviously with him not being in practices and being able to do the stuff that we’re doing every day, it’s obviously moving in that direction," Donovan said.

Identity search

With a win Friday, it will be the first back-to-back wins for the Thunder since March 11 and 13 against Utah and Brooklyn. The Thunder would like for it to resemble the way it beat the Lakers.

Albeit against a depleted Lakers roster, the Thunder played to its identity, forcing 23 turnovers, scoring efficiently in transition (15-of-17) and annihilating the Lakers 17-4 in offensive rebounds.

To much debate in the NBA community, the Thunder didn’t design this team around shooters, but tailored it to the strengths of Russell Westbrook: Speed, getting out on the fast break, scoring at the rim and drawing fouls.

"That’s got to be our formula, so we did a pretty good job of playing to that, I thought," Donovan said.

Regardless of style, the Thunder can’t afford inefficiency on free throws and close-range attempts.

Outside of Steven Adams’ 1-of-7 from the line (one of which Adams implied was intentionally missed to get Westbrook a shot at 20 rebounds late in Tuesday’s win), the Thunder shot 11-of-13 from the line. The Thunder shot 24-of-34 (70.6 percent) within five feet of the rim, which would be No. 1 in the league over a full season and 10 percentage points higher than its season average.

All must be taken with the grain of salt which is the Lakers’ defense, but the Thunder dominated in areas needed.

"Missing the layups, missing the free throws, that stuff adds up after a while," Donovan said. "That definitely impacts you offensively. In the Dallas game we missed a bunch of layups to start the game and then against the Lakers we were better."

Erik Horne

Erik Horne is in his fourth season on the Thunder beat. Horne joined The Oklahoman as a sports web editor/producer in September 2013 following a five-year stint at The Ardmoreite (Ardmore) – first as a sports writer, then sports editor. At The... Read more ›

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