Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo initially ruled out a return for the NBA restart in Orlando, Florida, but the two-time All-Star now says there is a “strong possibility” that could change, though he remains undecided.
“It was hard for me to assess where I was at from the long layover, and obviously [with the coronavirus] couldn’t really control that,” Oladipo told reporters during Wednesday’s Zoom availability. “But now, coming down here and getting some practices in, getting my feet under me, going out there playing with the guys, there’s a possibility that I could play.”
Oladipo first planned to travel with the team to Orlando while continuing rehab on his quadriceps tendon, but now his “body’s feeling good,” with no restrictions from coach Nate McMillan during practices. He’s trying to give it a go.
“I’m just reassessing myself and my body every day,” Oladipo said. “I think people fail to realize that this injury that I have is very unique No one of my stature, of my ability, has ever had this injury before, so there’s no one else that I have to look up to or could reassess from, so I’m learning and growing as the days and weeks go on, just like you guys are, but no one understands or knows what I feel or what I’m going through internally or what my body feels like.
“I know what I’m capable of. I know what standard I have to get to. I know how my body needs to feel in order to perform at the level that I’m capable of performing, because if I don’t do that, well, then everybody’s going to write about how I didn’t play at that great level or how I didn’t look good.”
President of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard and general manager Chad Buchanan have publicly supported Oladipo, saying the decision was his to make and giving him no set deadline, despite sources confirming to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that there is an unresolved situation regarding $3 million in salary.
The union feels he should be paid his remaining salary, while the league believes he should not be, according to Windhorst. The Pacers are willing to pay his salary whether or not he plays for the remainder of this shortened season, sources told Windhorst.
Either way, Oladipo said returning to basketball, not the money, is his main focus.
“I don’t know. That’s out of my control, I don’t have any control of that. Honestly, to be real, I didn’t even know the amount, what goes into it, I’m just focused on my knee,” Oladipo said. “I’m not really concerned about anything I can’t control. It’s out of my control. Other people handle that, I guess, whatever the case is, but I just want to play basketball, plain and simple. And I want to make sure my knee is at its best ability and I’m at my best ability when I go out there to perform at a high level.”
When the news first was reported of Oladipo’s initial decision to sit out for the restart, McMillan said he found out through the media just like everyone else. Oladipo said he made the decision prematurely because he didn’t feel he was capable of playing at that point.
Still, it was his call, and everyone respected it, but the Pacers still included him in their travel party and in basketball activities.
“He is playing with all three teams. We are involving him,” McMillan said Sunday. “We are not approaching it as if he’s not playing. We are putting him out there. There are no restrictions for Vic. He’s been going hard.”
Domantas Sabonis saw it as a positive to have Oladipo in practice.
“Having him around completes the team. We’re a full roster,” Sabonis said. “He’s another body we can go at, he’s an elite player. So he’s just making us better at the same time, so it’s great having him there.”
Still, as much as he wants to play, Oladipo is putting his mental and physical health first, saying he wants to be smart now to keep playing for another decade. The plan was always to come to Orlando, test things out through game-like situations and then make the best choice for not only now but years down the road.
“These people have been amazing since the day I put on this jersey. It’s no surprise that they back me and they support me,” Oladipo said. “It’s an amazing organization, amazing people. So I’m just thankful that they’ve got my back. That’s not necessarily a given thing when you’re in a situation like I am, so I just want to let them know that I appreciate that for sure.”