Victor Oladipo was just beginning to round into form after missing more than a year following a torn right quad tendon. He played 13 games for the Pacers before the league was shut down due to the coronavirus, and in his last five games averaged 18.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game.
“I feel a whole lot better,” Oladipo told ESPN. “I know there’s risk going into it with the unique situation that I’m in — being off so long and trying to ramp it up that fast. I’ve just got to be smart, that’s all.”
Players have until June 24 to inform their teams if they do not wish to play in Orlando. There will be no discipline for players who choose not to play, however, they do not get paid for those games.
If Oladipo decides not to play in the NBA’s restart, the Pacers can sign a replacement player to fill out that roster spot. The problem for Indiana: There is nobody they can pick up who is as good as Oladipo. The best wings on the free agent market — Jamal Crawford, maybe J.R. Smith — offer less offensive punch and not near the two-way play of Oladipo. If he cannot go the Pacers hopes of surprise playoff run with Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, and the defense of Myles Turner leading the charge are done.
Other teams are not sold Oladipo can return to his All-NBA level form — he wasn’t the same guy pre-injury in 2018-19, and the 13 games this season is too small a sample size to read — and they are watching to see if the Pacers decide to trade him rather than extend or pay him when his contract is up in the summer of 2021. Opposing teams are looking for a steal, but the Pacers are looking for a return of peak Oladipo and a playoff run.