Victor Oladipo Practicing Hard with Pacers, May Reconsider Playing as NBA Resumes

Tom Brew

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The message is clear from Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. It's not the money, it's the knee that guides his decision-making this summer.

Oladipo has been caught in a bit of an awkward position as he tries to return from a horrific ruptured quad tendon injury suffered on Jan. 23, 2019. He played in 13 games this winter in his return before the NBA season was shut down, but was being worked back into the rotation slowly, averaging about 26 minutes a game.

As the NBA gears up for its return at the end of the month, Oladipo was concerned that a lack of practice time with his teammates might put him at a greater risk of re-injury, so before the Pacers left for the bubble at Disney World in Orlando, he said he wasn't going to play in the Pacers' final eight regular season games or the playoffs.

But he's on the roster, and he has been working out and practicing every day with his teammates. And because he feels good, he's reconsidering whether he can play or not.

So he might give it a go after all.

"My body is feeling good," Oladipo said Wednesday. "It was hard for me to assess where I was at after that long layoff. Coming down here (to Orlando), getting some practices in, getting my feet under me, going out there playing with the guys, there's a possibility that I could play. 

"I'm just reassessing myself and my body every day."

The Pacers' first game in Orlando isn't until Aug. 1, so there's still a couple of weeks of practice to go before a final decision has to be made. The Pacers are going to make the playoffs, and with no home-court advantage for anyone, the title chase is wide open. The Pacers could certainly use him if he's good to go.

"I was always going to come down here and test it out. That was always part of the plan," Oladipo said. "When I made my decision, I didn't think I could play. I wasn't able to play 5-on-5. I wasn't able to get up and down. I wasn't able to practice with the team.

"I wasn't able to do necessarily game-like things at a high level. After coming down here, reassessing every day and being out there playing 5-on-5 with these guys, moving around, doing basketball-related things like rebounding, change of speed, changing ends of the floor, running, doing things basketball-related, I'm trending in a positive direction."

The NBA and the player's association have been arguing over whether Oladipo should have to forfeit the remaining $3 million on his contract this season if he doesn't play. The uneducated have taken shots at Oladipo, saying that's the only reason why he's changed his mind, but that's really not the case.

The argument isn't between the Pacers and Oladipo. The team has said they're willing to pay the balance of his salary whether he plays or not. They want to keep him happy, especially since Oladipo is entering the final year of his four-year, $84 million contract next season.

"I haven’t talked to them. I don’t know. That’s out of my control,'' he said. "Honestly, to be real I didn’t even know the amount or what goes into it. I’m just focused on my knee."

The Pacers definitely want to keep him around long-term, because aside from being a great player, he's a huge fan favorite, too. That has a lot to do with what he's done with the Pacers since being traded from Oklahoma City in 2017, but he was also a college star at Indiana University from 2010 to 2013. That means a lot in this state.

There's already been plenty of conjecture about what might happen going forward. Contract discussions are sure to start this summer, but Oladipo might also want to wait and enter free agency at the end of the 2021 market, because there will certainly be a lot of interest around the league.