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GR3 is ready for a smooth takeoff.

The bad wheel has been repaired.

All systems are go.

The runway is cleared.

And the Pacers anxiously await his return.

Lake Central grad Glenn Robinson III has been flying the friendly skies since his college days at Michigan.

The Pacers guard-forward was 2017 NBA Slam Dunk champion but couldn't defend his title Saturday because of Oct. 13 surgery on his left ankle.

More importantly, he's cleared to return after the All-Star break.

"It's going great. I'm feeling really good," Robinson said. "I played two (G league) games to get a live feel and it went well."

Winners in seven of their last 10 games, his Pacers currently are the fifth-seed in the Eastern Conference standings at 33-25. Steering the big, blue and gold bus are guard Victor Oladipo and rookie center Domantas Sabonis.

"I'm not surprised," Robinson said. "I saw, when we started in the summer, how easy we jelled and the carefree basketball we started out playing.

"I thought we had a pretty special team but I don't think anybody else thought we'd go into the break looking this good."

GR3's return provides a booster shot of athleticism and high energy.

"It took me some time to get used to gliding, running, jumping and doing everything again," he said. "That came with reps and there'll be more reps.

"It's been a long road to recovery but I'm glad to finally be out there again with my teammates."

Now in his fourth NBA season, Robinson opened some eyes a year ago by winning the slam dunk competition against DeAndre Jordan, Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr.

For a Region kid to win it was an All-Star first, an accomplishment local fans will embrace forever.

"It's crazy what a year can do," he said. "That weekend changed my life; the way basketball brought me to the next level."

The clincher on that February night at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans came when Robinson soared up and over his then-teammate Paul George, grabbed the ball and floated long enough to clear the Pacers' mascot and a dancer, too.

His reverse slam, with his head grazing the rim along the way, was enough to win the event.

"It's crazy. I couldn't dunk until my sophomore year in high school, and now not even a decade later, I won an NBA dunk contest," he later told me.

All the media giants — ESPN, ABC, Sports Center, TNT, NBA TV — were there to record the moment.

It took GR3 a while to touch ground again.

"Meeting all the celebrities, going to parties with some of the people you only see or hear about all the time on TV ... I was put on a big stage where I was the underdog and I knew I could win it," he said.

The Bulls' Zach LaVine, a two-time dunk champ, missed last year's event with a torn ACL but is now fully-recovered and a big fan of GR3.

"Me, him and (Andrew) Wiggins were rookies back on Minnesota," Robinson recalled. "Me and Zach were best friends and used to do everything together. We used to be in the gym late at night, working out, so I have a lot of respect for Zach.

"I know it's mutual."

The Bulls aren't going anywhere this postseason, but GR3 is ready to fly and now has a window seat.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at