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Monday, May 17, 2021

Pacers need to call the shots on Oladipo’s return

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It’s been a year now since Victor Oladipo suffered a ruptured quadricep tendon in his right knee, and everyone continues to speculate when he will be ready to return to the court. In an interview with Stadium’s Shams Charania earlier this month, the seventh-year guard stated he was targeting Jan. 28 for his return, and while that date could change, he felt confident about it.

While it’s only normal for an injured player to want back in the game as soon as possible, Oladipo’s proclamation to return by a specific date comes as a bit of a surprise, as there has been no official word from the Pacers as to when he will actually be ready. I use the term “actually” with great respect as his injury was severe, and there seems to be some various opinions as to when he returns, how well he will recover and if he will eventually return to his previous form.

In a nutshell, the road back has been a rather interesting one to this outside observer, and while I have no inside information regarding his current physical condition, here is what I do know about the entire post-surgical situation. While the Pacers employ a world-class medical and training staff, Oladipo opted to initially rehab in Miami, where the temps are warmer and the social atmosphere is clearly more vibrant. That forced the Pacers to fly their own medical experts to Florida frequently as opposed to having daily access to the process locally. Granted, while there was extensive communication regarding his progress, make no mistake about the fact that Oladipo had his own army of doctors, trainers and therapists leading the process. While most of us would be thrilled to get the medical expertise of the aforementioned Pacers staff, Victor chose a route that included both parties and moved forward with his dual approach.

As time progressed, apparently so did Oladipo, as the seventh-year guard began to participate in some non-contact drills at Pacers practices this past October, but clearly was still in need of more time to become strong enough to experience the typical rigors of NBA play. So does his announced return date really mean he’ll be playing that night? I, for one, am pessimistic and say no. Again, the sit-down with Charania was Oladipo’s doing and from what I was told, not the result of the proper channels being followed in terms of the Pacers media relations staff, which is both experienced and professional when it comes to these types of matters. In fact, they had to hastily comprise a formal press conference the next home game when Oladipo addressed the “local media” before the start of the contest. Not exactly commensurate with how things are normally done, but to their credit, the media relations made it look normal on the surface. In addition to that, the team has not issued an official statement dealing with the Jan. 28 return, and that too signals that something is awry here, with two camps clearly in play.

The bottom line is no individual knows how Oladipo’s knee feels as well as he does, and while the experts can look at images and test results, ultimately it’s the team that must have the final say on when he gets the green light. By the same token, his future is too important to risk on a season in which this franchise cannot win a championship. Don’t hesitate to sit him longer than he may like to make sure he’s ready to attempt the final phase of his rehab, which is playing in real games against NBA level competition. There’s no guarantee Oladipo will return to form, but you can bank on an all too early comeback derailing this season and possibly his career.

The Pacers do not impress me as that type of an organization that would be that careless, but they, and not Victor Oladipo, must make that decision. Stay tuned, as this will no doubt get more interesting.

Danny Bridges, who thinks the Indiana Pacers should sit Oladipo out until next season and go full bore then, can be reached at 317-370-8447, or at bridgeshd@aol.com.

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