Pacers Remain NBA Championship Long Shots Despite Victor Oladipo’s Likely Return

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  • Victor Oladipo says there is a “strong” chance he will play with the NBA season resumes
  • Oladipo said earlier this month he would sit out
  • Pacers at +3300 to win Eastern Conference, +10000 to win NBA title

Earlier this month, Indiana Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo said that he planned to sit out of the NBA’s restart. Oladipo tore the quad tendon in his right knee in the middle of last season, and he didn’t return until this past January. Rather than risking further injury, the swingman planned to continue his rehab with hopes of being back to 100 percent health by the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

Oladipo planned to travel with his teammates to the NBA’s “bubble” at Disney World, however. Based on his latest comments, it sure sounds as though his plans for the restart have made an about-face. On Wednesday, Oladipo said there is a “strong” chance that he decides to play when the stalled season gets back underway at the end of the month.

After Wednesday’s practice, Oladipo said, “My body is feeling good. It was hard for me to assess where I was at from the long layover, couldn’t really control that. But now you know, coming down here and getting some practices in, getting my feet under me, going out there and playing with the guys, there’s a possibility that I could play. I am just reassessing myself and my body every day.”

Oladipo Injured in January 2019

The two-time All-Star has played in just 13 games this season after suffering his injury in January of 2019. He wound up missing Indiana’s playoff run last season and didn’t return to the floor until January 29 of this year. Through those 13 games, he is averaging 13.8 points on just 39 percent shooting from the field.

Oladipo clearly wasn’t at his best immediately after his return, but he is hoping to round into form in time to help the Pacers make a run later this summer. Oladipo wasn’t able to undergo his usual rehab procedures while the NBA was on hiatus, but the way his body has reacted positively to the team’s recent practices has clearly changed his mind with regard to playing.

Indiana is 39-26 on the season, which is good for the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference. The team has gotten major contributions out of Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon with Oladipo sidelined for most of the season, though the team is short on the wing. Jeremy Lamb suffered a season-ending injury in February.

Indiana Thin On Wing

With Oladipo originally expected to join Lamb on the sidelines for the NBA restart, the Pacers were expected to lean more heavily on the likes of Justin Holiday, Aaron Holiday, Edmond Sumner, and TJ McConnell. However, Oladipo’s potential return adds another capable ball-handler and a proven scoring option on the wing. Without Lamb, Indiana will need Oladipo to round into form quickly if they are to beat the odds come playoff time.

While the Pacers have had a solid season, they aren’t getting much love from oddsmakers when it comes to contending for an Eastern Conference title. Indiana faces fairly long +3300 odds to win the East. Those are the sixth-best odds in the conference. The Pacers are also at +10000 to win the NBA title this season.

McMillan Non-Committal

Oladipo has reportedly been practicing in full with his teammates, which has helped him gain enough confidence to potentially return to the floor. When asked about that possibility, head coach Nate McMillan said, He has always told us that he was coming to Orlando and he was going to be working with the team. And there’s where I was at with him. As far as coming down and working and seeing how you feel, you kind of go from there. That was the plan. That’s what we’re doing now.”

Indiana is just two games behind the Miami Heat for fourth place in the East, so there is still ground to be made up over the course of the eight-game regular season.

Oladipo is facing a potential contract dispute, which may be playing a role in his decision to play. ESPN reported that there is a disagreement between the NBA and the players’ union over whether Oladipo will be paid his $3 million in remaining salary if he declined to play despite being physically healthy enough to do so. Oladipo has said that his agent is handling the matter, but the dispute will likely be resolved if he winds up playing.

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