Indiana Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo has yet to decide if he will play in games once the NBA season restarts in Orlando.
There are a few factors influencing Oladipo’s thinking, but near the top of the list is his health, specifically his long-term well-being. He expressed his thoughts about taking care of his body on a Zoom call with media members earlier this week. “It’s not about now, it’s about longevity,” he said. “When I’m at my best, the team is at their best.”
Players who are involved in the league’s restart are forced to consider their long-term health given the nature of the NBA’s relaunch plan. Everyone has just a few weeks to ramp up to peak conditioning after not playing, or having a set workout routine, for three-plus months. That’s a tough challenge, even for athletes with a professional fitness level.
For Oladipo, that is even more so the case. He only played in 13 games this season after rupturing a tendon in his quad early in 2019. And when he actually was playing, per his own admission, he wasn’t 100% healthy. That’s why he is considering the drawbacks involved with possibly re-injuring himself once the action begins in Orlando. He is more likely to get injured than the average player.
“It takes time for the body to heal,” the 28 year-old guard said. “To go back and ramp things up again, I’m susceptible to injury more so than anyone else.”
Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans has decided not to take part in the remainder of the season, and injury risk was a factor in his choice not to play. “The injury risk played a role in Davis’ decision,” Bertans’ agent told HoopsHype. There is already precedent for a player citing the increased chance of injury as a reason for sitting out.
Plus, as Dr. Tim Hewett told Forbes’ Sean Deveney, there could be a higher rate of injuries in the remaining games due to the rushed nature of the NBA restart. Players will have a short amount of time to increase their activity level, as opposed to the gradual increase in intensity that normally occurs as a part of season preparation. That makes injuries more likely, according to Dr. Hewett.
Oladipo’s trepidation is completely justified given all the factors at play. “I feel better, but at the same time we’ve had an extensive period of time off,” he said. He is making sure to protect his body, especially considering he has just one additional season on his contract after this one. Obtaining long term health and showcasing his abilities next season are both imperative for the two-time All-Star to get another big payday in his career.
The Pacers will support Oladipo no matter what decision he makes. “The organization supports him in what he is thinking,” Head Coach Nate McMillan said. “He wants to come in and he’s been working extremely hard every single day preparing himself to be ready to play. But because of this uncertain situation, [it’s not that simple].”
McMillan said he expects Oladipo to come down to Orlando with the team and work out. Once the star guard is in the NBA bubble, he will play five-on-five basketball with his teammates, something he hasn’t done in months. Doing so will help him assess his health status so that he can make the best decision about playing in games.
If he does decide to play, the team will have a plan in place for him. “We’ve spent a lot of time coming up with a plan that allows him to play,” Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard said. “And hopefully be ready to play as much as he possibly can,” he added.
The opposite is true as well. “[If] we think that he doesn’t look right or feel right to play, then we will pull him,” McMillan said. “It’s something we are going to watch.”
Ultimately, the decision is all Oladipo’s to make. If he feels like his chance of injury is small, or even zero, then he will likely play. But if his body responds poorly to five-on-five play, or his knee feels any pain while increasing his activity level, then he could sit out. “[I’ve] just got to be smart,” he said.
What does that mean, specifically? “I think being smart means just doing what’s best for my body,” Oladipo explained. “I just have got to be smart in making my decision and making sure that my body and my mind are ready to perform at the highest level possible.”
Right now, according to Pritchard, Oladipo looks great. “I don’t think I’ve seen him in better shape than I’ve seen him today in a long time,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed [by] what I’ve seen out of him… He’s in great shape.”
While great shape is good, it isn’t the end goal here for Victor Oladipo. The end goal is sustained long-term health. If, after working out in Orlando and playing in some scrimmages, the Pacers star feels like he can play in games with sacrificing his future, he will play. If Oladipo still has doubts about how games may impact his career, he will sit out and the Pacers will simply place him on the inactive list every game.
It’s impossible to know right now which direction Oladipo is leaning. Currently he is in Indianapolis working out at the Pacers practice facility, and he will continue to get into better shape throughout the month of July. But for the next few weeks, nobody can be certain what Victor Oladipo is going to do.