Injury made me appreciate game more


LAS VEGAS — Victor Oladipo watched the NBA’s 2019 playoffs much in the same manner many of its devoted fans did: by cursing at his television set when his Indiana Pacers faltered in his absence.

“Let’s just say it was emotional,” said Oladipo. “It was so hard. It makes you appreciate the game more, your teammates more, even yourself more.

“Sometimes we don’t realize our own impact. You take it for granted. I won’t ever do that again.”

Oladipo, who suffered a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee in January and was lost for the season, dropped into Las Vegas Summer League looking spry, energized and slim.

“I’m at my playing weight, about 205,” he said. “Feeling really good.”

Although Indiana’s franchise player would not predict a return date, he said he’s been strenuously training in Miami with Micah Lancaster and Bryce Stanhope from ImPossible Training and has amped up his skill work, including shooting, dribbling and defensive slides. As for dunking?

“No, none of that yet,” Oladipo said. “I feel like that’s the final nail biter before you declare yourself back and ready to go.”

Published reports have suggested a December timetable for Oladipo, who has yet to engage in any 3-on-3 workouts. Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard said on Wednesday, “Whatever Victor has in mind for a timetable, it will probably be a little longer, because we are in no hurry with this. We are going to take every precaution to make sure he’s completely healthy before we put him back out there.”

Indiana turned over a huge chunk of its roster, adding T.J. Warren, Jeremy Lamb and former division rival guard Malcolm Brogdon, who came to the Pacers in a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee.

“We play the Bucks a lot, and for a long time I’ve said, ‘Malcolm would be the perfect Pacer,'” Oladipo said. “I’ve always wanted to play alongside him, and I’m excited about the chance to do that.”

The continued improvement of both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner has Oladipo convinced the Pacers will take big step forward in 2019-20. The entire Indiana team, he noted, is used to being overlooked.

“We can be very special,” Oladipo said. “It’s up to us how special we can be. Domantas got so much better, and Myles was robbed by being left off the [NBA] All-Defensive team. It’s crazy to me a guy who led the league in blocks shots doesn’t get chosen.”

Oladipo has avoided replaying video of the gruesome injury that forced him to be wheeled off the court in a stretcher.

“The minute I did it, it felt awkward,” he said. “I looked down at my knee and I knew it was gone. It has been a slow grind, but a lot of things have happened to me during this time off that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been injured. I’ve spent time working on being a leader, making sure everyone is on the same page. And, business-wise, I had a chance to take a crack at being an entrepreneur, so I look at this as a blessing.

“You have to work on your mind as hard as you work on your body, and I’ve used this time off to heal my mind and learn from this.”

Source : ESPN