INDIANAPOLIS – The saga and mixed messaging is reminiscent of an episode of The Bachelor.
Well, do not take that rose off the Orlando table for Victor Oladipo just yet.
After ruling himself out for the NBA bubble restart a few weeks back, Oladipo now says he’s back in-line to possibly play, as the league finishes out the regular season and postseason here in a few weeks.
“My body is feeling good,” Oladipo said on Wednesday morning, following his participation in the 4th of 4 practices that the Pacers have had in Orlando so far. “It was hard for me to assess where I was at from a long layover. Coming down here, getting my feet under me, coming down here and playing with the guys, there’s a possibility that I could play. I’m just reassessing myself and my body every day. I think people fail to realize that this injury that I had is very unique. There’s no one of my stature, of my ability, that has ever had this injury before. So there’s no one else that I have to look up to. I’m learning and growing as the weeks go on, just as you guys are…”
“I feel like if my body keeps trending, there’s a strong possibility that I might play. I’m definitely trying to.”
Back on July 3rd, Oladipo announced via The Athletic that he was not going to play in Orlando.
This news was surprising for many reasons.
Oladipo, along with Nate McMillan and Kevin Pritchard had sounded optimistic about the All-Star at least going down to Orlando to test himself out in 5-on-5 settings—something he had yet to do since the NBA season was halted in March—before making a final decision.
There was no deadline needed to make such a decision on the 3rd, and the Pacers were perfectly content with practicing patience in giving Oladipo as much time as he needed to make that final call.
On Wednesday, Oladipo didn’t clear up any specifics on why he felt the need to make that announcement then, particularly prior to telling the Pacers.
“I said back then my decision wasn’t to play because I wasn’t able to have the resources that I needed to rest or re-assess my knee,” Oladipo said. “So right then and there, I didn’t feel I would be capable of playing. I was always going to come to the bubble. I had to come and support my team. I don’t think you guys realize how much practice and getting up and down is a part of my rehab. I’m going to keep stressing that. Playing in games, back in the 13 games I played, I was on a minute restriction. That doesn’t mean I was healthy. A few weeks ago, I made a decision that I felt was best for my career. Is that wrong for me to do? I don’t think so. Coming here, re-assessing it, having the resources to play against these guys are at a high level, see where my knee is at, see where my knee is progressing, with a heavy load and then making a decision, and say, ‘Well there’s a possibility that I might play, I’m going to try it out.’ Is that wrong of me to do that, too? I’m just asking (laughs).”
When asked about the support he’s received from the Pacers over the last year and a half of his injury rehab, Oladipo gushed about their backing.
Earlier this week, it was reported that the NBA and NBA Players Association is fighting over whether or not Oladipo’s situation means that the Pacers will have to pay him the $3 million he is owed for the remainder of the season. The Pacers have said they will pay Oladipo that amount no matter if he plays or not.
Oladipo said he was not aware of that money amount and it would not impact his decision.
His public comments back on July 1st expressing his improved health then do not aid him in the NBAPA’s fight for that money.
“I’m definitely here trying to play,” the 28-year-old said on Wednesday. “I’m training myself in order to play. Hopefully everything goes well. I definitely feel great after the practices so hopefully it continues to manifest upward.”
The Pacers will have their first scrimmage in Orlando next Thursday, with their regular season re-start beginning on Saturday, August 1st.
They will play 8 regular season games before starting a best of 7-game first round playoff matchup.
Concern for Oladipo still resides around the risk of him being more susceptible to a soft tissue injury, and not where his quad tendon rehab is at. Oladipo, who will be in the final year of his contract next season, reiterated on Wednesday that the goal for him is to play another 10 years in the league.
Back in the spring, the Pacers initially said Oladipo would be on a minutes restriction if/when the season started back up again.
For now though, Oladipo is not being held back in practice.
Nate McMillan said on Wednesday it’s too early to offer up any minutes restriction possibilities for Oladipo.
“He’s been training hard and he has gone through all of our practices. He’s looking good,” McMillan said of Oladipo.
McMillan would not answer whether or not Oladipo has given him a definitive answer on if he’ll play.
Oladipo’s tune on Wednesday sounded like a guy pointing more at the thought of trying to give it a go.
Obviously, McMillan likes hearing that, compared to what the head coach learned from his star—via social media—earlier this month.
“You are bringing in another major option,” McMillan said of possibly having Oladipo back playing.
“We only had an opportunity to look at that first group together maybe 5 or 6 games this season, so they really haven’t had a lot of time playing together and building that chemistry. What he brings is another strong weapon to that lineup. We know he’s very capable of scoring and creating, but he also does a good job of defending for us and was once an All-Star. To have him in the lineup, or playing it just adds to our lineup and health.”