The best news of Monday's NBA Media Day frenzy dealt not with the players on the court, but with one of the basketball-watching world's favorite chroniclers of their actions.
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The great Craig Sager, whose sartorial splendor and sideline-reporting savvy have made him a linchpin of Turner Sports' coverage for many years, turned up in Texas at the Houston Rockets' Media Day session on Monday, garnering as much attention as several of the stars Daryl Morey's assembled:
Craig Sager at media day. James Harden paid his respects asked for Sager's sweater. Sager said he wants Harden's beard.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) September 28, 2015
After his session, James Harden gave Craig Sager a hug. Great to see Sages here. Harden, "That's my man."— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) September 28, 2015
The presence of the 64-year-old Sager, a broadcasting veteran best known for his garish suits who's been a television mainstay since the early 1970s, was particularly heartening given his absence for much of the past year and a half.
He was forced to step away from TNT's NBA coverage in April 2014 after beginning treatment for acute leukemia, and remained sidelined for the next 10 months. After a surprise appearance during 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend in February, Sager's son, Craig Jr., announced that his father had been cleared by his doctors to return to work the following month, marking the end of a long and emotional journey back to the sideline ... or so we'd hoped.
Just three weeks after his return during the March 5 contest between the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder, Craig Jr. reported that his father's leukemia had returned, and that he'd once again be forced to step away from his television work to resume treatment. Sager's TNT compatriots dug deep in their closets and donned their most colorful threads to pay homage to their colleague during the playoffs, but it just wasn't the same as having the man himself out there on the court.
And now, after undergoing a successful bone marrow transplant back in July and additional treatment at Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Sager's says he's on track to return to work for the 2015-16 NBA season:
Great catching up for a minute with Craig Sager. Had chemo this morning at M.D. Anderson; at media day hours later. Will work opening night.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) September 28, 2015
That lines up with the timeline Sager laid out during an interview with Houston's KPRC-TV last month:
“I said, ‘The NBA season starts Oct. 27, what are my chances?’ He goes, ‘Oh they’re good!'” Sager recounts asking his doctor. “I said one more, ‘What about the Olympics next summer in Rio?’ He said, ‘No brainer! I said yes! Yes!'”
After all the hard work Sager's put into his recovery and working his way back to health, just getting to get face-to-face with players and colleagues again on Monday must have felt amazing. Here's hoping that the next month brings no unwelcome surprises, and that we'll get to see Sages — suited and booted to the fullest — making an even more triumphant return to the small screen, chatting us up like he never left our living rooms.
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