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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Pacers’ hesitancy to move disgruntled Oladipo is puzzling

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We’ve all seen this story before. An athlete falls out of favor with his employer and the fan base proceeds to help the franchise run them out of town. 

While it’s usually quick, sometimes a prolonged affair transpires, but either way, the change of address occurs.

Sure, the timeline varies, but in the end both parties get the opportunity to move forward and turn the page. Often a contract must be bought out, but that’s an item that can be negotiated, and when it’s said and done, the player’s agent earns their keep by finding their scorned client a new team.

The Indiana Pacers seem steadfast in taking the high road with Victor Oladipo, and while that sounds good from a public relations standpoint, they know the time for a deal to jettison him out is way overdue. Yes, they’re staring down the reality of being stuck with any trade they can make that at least garners something in return, without allowing him to walk away as a free agent when his current contract expires at the conclusion of the upcoming 2020-21 season. 

How a team orchestrates that type of fire sale can be defined as an art, and with the entire NBA knowing Oladipo will never be the same physically after a catastrophic injury, coupled by his desire to play elsewhere, it’s a monumental task to secure anything even remotely valuable in return for him at this point of the rather ugly, yet necessary process. 

The Pacers found that out on draft night and when the current free agency period was ushered in. Sure, a couple of multi-player deals that included Oladipo as a throw-in player were on the table, but the Pacers didn’t bite. They focused their attention on moving Myles Turner in trades that would have brought different types of players with similar salaries back in return, all the while thinking the elephant in the room known as Oladipo would take care of itself before the trade deadline.
Despite the fact that his actual trade value is diminishing by the minute, there’s a good chance the Pacers will bring him back into the fold and allow the mercurial Oladipo to have a negative impact on the team this season as he continues to struggle with the fact that his injury has stripped away a maximum-deal contract and relegated him to a co-star status (at best) behind both Malcom Brogdon and T.J. Warren and, if healthy, even his best friend, Domantas Sabonis.

In the end we must not shed tears for Oladipo, as when it’s all said and done, he’ll get a new deal with his next team and by then grossed over $140 million in his career. Sure, that’s less than what he could’ve commanded prior to the unfortunate injury, but it’s still enough money to underwrite his fledgling musical interests away from the game and then somehow manage to pay the rent and utilities on time every month. 

If I seem brazen about all this, please understand it’s the Pacers l’m puzzled with in this situation. Every team has a diva and how you deal with them is no secret. Oladipo has been coddled by this franchise and allowed to believe his personal interests are more important than that of the team, and without the NBA street cred a true superstar brings to the table every night, he’s become both an enigma and a major distraction that has to be dealt with for whatever the Pacers can get for him.

He’s not a bad person, but he’s taken some absolutely horrible advice from those who handle his affairs. Along the way he’s disrespected the Pacers’ medical staff and their fine media relations personnel, and that’s just a few of his unconscionable mistakes.

His grasp of reality is crippling an average team in a small market, and that has to end soon before his moodiness and inconsiderate attitude toward his teammates crush the Pacers further into mediocrity this season.

Yes, the Oladipo era is over, and it’s time to tell him to stay home. Don’t even bring him to camp; just allow him to brood in his Miami residence until a trade can be finalized. 

He’ll be less of a distraction in Florida, and this team no longer needs the circus his life has become. Every great relationship between a once-coveted player and the franchise comes to an end, and this one is obviously beyond the much-needed separation. 

I just wonder what’s taking the Pacers so long to face the music and move forward without him.

Danny Bridges, who thinks Victor Oladipo is a very fortunate young man and wishes him well, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com.

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