A childhood lesson has come back to help Victor Oladipo amid rumors that the Pacers star wants out of Indiana.
“Growing up, I was always taught not to engage in nonsense,” Oladipo said. “I never have. I never came out and said that I didn’t want to play for the Pacers or be in this organization, but, yeah, I’m focused on now. Here and now.”
Oladipo is entering the final year of his four-year, $84 million rookie extension that he signed in 2016. Indiana’s front office could let him play out the season or look for a trade partner, but Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has maintained that the two-time All-Star wants to be in Indiana.
Oladipo is coming off an injury-riddled campaign during which he averaged 14.5 points in 19 games, which was his lowest scoring average since his rookie season in 2013-14. He returned to action in 2019-20 while continuing to recover from losing most of the season to a ruptured quad tendon.
After a first-round playoff exit to Miami, Indiana used the offseason to make big changes, including replacing former coach Nate McMillan with Nate Bjorkgren — a former Toronto Raptors assistant. The Pacers also re-signed Justin Holiday.
The biggest feedback that Pritchard received from his players involved guys wanting to see how they could perform with a healthy Oladipo or All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis, who left the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, to receive medical treatment for plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Sabonis said his foot feels fine now.
Oladipo is also feeling strong, which has him enthusiastic to begin another season. However, sitting back and remaining quiet while hearing his name engaged in talks wasn’t always easy, but he decided to control what he could, which was improving as a basketball player.
“It’s very difficult, especially when things are said about you that’s negative,” Oladipo said. “I’ve been in the league for eight years now, this is my eighth year, and this is the first time anyone has accused me of anything like this. It’s very interesting to me, but at the end of the day, I can’t let none of the stuff that I can’t control make me lose focus of what really matters, and that’s this team, my teammates, this organization and making sure I’m healthy.”
Hearing the chatter while becoming emotionally unattached to the situation has him motivated to take it out on his opponents. To say that he has a chip on his shoulder is an understatement.
“It stopped being a chip a long time ago. It more so feels like the world on my back and I gotta make sure I hold it up,” Oladipo said. “So, if you wanna call me Atlas from now on, that’s fine, but it’s no longer a chip. It’s bigger than a chip now, so I’m just looking forward to competing at the highest level.”