INDIANAPOLIS – More than four weeks away from the Pacers re-starting the NBA season in Orlando, they’ve learned the fate of if they’ll have Victor Oladipo playing.
He won’t be suiting it up.
Oladipo shared that news with the The Athletic on Friday afternoon, pointing to the risk of injury, particularly a soft tissue injury, as the main reason he won’t be playing in Orlando.
“I really want to play, and as a competitor and teammate this is tearing me apart,” Oladipo told The Athletic. “I feel like I’m at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent. With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble I just can’t get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn’t been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I’m on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me.”
This news comes after Oladipo played 13 games for the Pacers earlier this year, returning from a January 2019 ruptured quad tendon in his right knee.
Of course, what Oladipo failed to mention is the looming contract year facing him after next season.
The 28-year-old Oladipo will be in the final year of his contract for the 2020-21 season, seeking his first (and perhaps last) top-end deal in his NBA career.
And he’ll do so having played just 49 games since the end of the 2017-18 season.
Friday’s news is surprising in the sense of timing (the Pacers have yet to practice in a full team setting in preparing for Orlando) and based off what Oladipo, Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan said earlier this week.
Oladipo mentioned he felt better than he did back in March, when the Pacers last played, and when he scored 27 points against the Celtics.
McMillan said that he expected Oladipo to go down to Orlando and participate in Training Camp before a final decision was made on him finishing out the final eight games of the regular season and then the postseason.
Pritchard added this about watching Oladipo workout individually the past few weeks.
“I don’t think I’ve seen him in better shape than I’ve seen him (Tuesday) in a long time.”
Despite that, Oladipo has made a decision to not risk injury after the NBA season was put on hold for more than three months. Entertaining the thought of ramping up minutes in Orlando was not enticing enough for Oladipo to test out things next month.
Luke Miller, Oladipo’s physical therapist, shared this with The Athletic’s Shams Chararnia:
“Vic looks great and feels great and is in the best shape he’s ever been in,” Miller, who has trained with Oladipo over the last three months, said. “He hasn’t had a setback at all. Now it’s about him taking everything into account, close this 2019-20 chapter and focus on 2020-21, which I believe will be a big one. He’s extremely close to the old VO, but he’s not there yet and he knows the work to get back there.”
Miller added that the injury Oladipo suffered 18 months ago takes a full two years to truly recover from.
Without Oladipo, and with Jeremy Lamb (knee) missing the rest of the season, the Pacers will be scrambling to find consistent perimeter scoring.
More will be needed from Justin Holiday, Aaron Holiday and Doug McDermott in the backcourt to complement point guards Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. McConnell.
This news from Oladipo stings on many levels, particularly in evaluating his long-term future staying in Indiana past next season.
For a player that needs his peak elite athleticism to continue to play at a top-20 player level, such a question remains at the forefront of the discussion when debating Oladipo’s value moving forward.