Indiana's Victor Oladipo Unsure of Return to Shortened Season

Tom Brew

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo said in a conference call Wednesday morning that he's still not sure he's going to play during the remainder of the Pacers' 2020 season that starts up in Orlando at the end of the month,

The NBA has been on a four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and players have been working out on their own for the past few weeks. Oladipo, who's coming off a major surgery, has been a bit leery about rushing back quickly after all this time off. He's also a free agent at the end of the year, with a likely max contract waiting for him.

"I haven't made a decision just yet. I'm taking it one day at a time,'' Oladipo said. "When the day comes, I'll know. Hopefully I can make a decision soon.

"It takes time for your body to heal. We’ve had an extensive period of time off and to go back and ramp things up again, I’m susceptible to injury more so than anyone else, seeing as how I was already injured beforehand and I wasn’t 100 percent when I came back to begin with.”

Prior to the stoppage of play in mid-March, Oladipo had played 13 games after recovering from the torn quad tendon he suffered last season. He was worked into the lineup gradually by Pacers coach Nate McMillan, but he was starting to get back to his old All-Star ways when the season got postponed. Against the Celtics on March 10, he had  27 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. 

Since then, the Indiana University star from 2010 to 2013 been continuing to work out hard to get back to 100 percent. 

"I don't think I've seen him in better shape than I've seen him in a long time," Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard said earlier this week. "I think he's taking the time to staircase up physically and mentally. I've been really impressed by what I've seen out of him. He's in great shape.

"We've spent a lot of time coming up with a plan that allows him to play and hopefully be ready to play as much as he possibly can. But we're going to call audibles. We're very excited about where he's at at this time."

Like all 22 teams who will be heading to Orlando to complete the season, the Pacers cannot conduct an official practice involving the coaching staff until after they arrive in Florida. When they get there, they all have to quarantine in their room at the Grand Floridian hotel for 48 hours upon their arrival on July 9. They will begin practice on the 11th or 12th. 

The Pacers, who are assured of one of the 16 playoff spots, will play eight more regular season games starting on Aug. 1. The playoffs will begin on Aug. 17.

"The world will be watching," Pritchard said Tuesday. "We're probably going to have some of the highest TV ratings we've ever had. I can feel in the air there's a pent-up demand for our sport, and sports in general.

"You go from apprehension on one end of the pendulum to excitement at the other end," Pritchard added. "(We're) getting excited to go play basketball and we look at this as a unique experience. I'm hopeful this is the only one we ever have to do."

Indiana was 39-26 when play stopped, tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference. They are within two games of the Miami Heat for the fourth spot, but obviously homeport advantage doesn't mean anything now with all the games being played in Orlando with no fans. 

All Pacers players, including Oladipo, have been tested for COVID-19, and only guard Malcolm Brogdon has tested positive. He's been working out and home but hopes to be symptom-free by the time the games begin in Orlando.

"We saw him here one day and he looked amazing," Pritchard said. "This is a little setback in his conditioning, but I think he's done a great job in his house doing everything he can."

Pritchard's said all 35 members of the traveling parties for each team will be tested twice per day in Orlando and the league has established strict guidelines to assure the safest possible environment. Pritchard said one booklet on hotel protocols consists of 122 pages.

"My comfort's gone way up and my anxiety's gone way down," he said. "I really believe (the hotels) could be the safest place in the world. It's impressive what they've put together."