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Victor Oladipo sets date for his return to Pacers' lineup

All-Star guard eyeing Jan. 29 game vs. Bulls as his 2019-20 debut

After nearly a year of work, Victor Oladipo has set a target date for his return to action: a Jan. 29 home game against the Chicago Bulls (7 ET, League Pass).

In an interview with Shams Charania of Stadium, Oladipo says he’s ready to return to the Indiana Pacers’ lineup for the first time since Jan. 23, 2019. He has been out of the mix since then when he suffered a ruptured right quad tendon in a 110-106 win against the Toronto Raptors.

While Jan. 29 is the target date, Oladipo told Stadium he remains open to that potentially changing.

“That could change, that might not change, who knows,” Oladipo told Stadium. “But it’s definitely good to have something to look forward to after 12 months of wondering and hoping and not being sure. Twelve months of the unknown.

“To actually, you know, have something and a goal to look forward to is pretty astronomical for me in this process. I’m way stronger now than I was before, especially mentally. I just feel like nothing can phase me. I’ve been through the worst. My better days lie ahead.”

Prior to his injury last season, Oladipo was averaging 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.7 steals in 36 games for Indiana. At the time of his injury, he ranked third in the NBA in clutch points with 5.1 ppg, was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Nov. 5 and was named an All-Star for the second straight season. (The Brooklyn Nets’ D’Angelo Russell ended up replacing him in the All-Star Game.)

Oladipo says he’s understandably excited to be back on the court for the Pacers, who are 23-14 and the No. 6 team in the Eastern Conference. Indiana has stayed in the thick of the East chase thanks to standout seasons from Domantas Sabonis and offseason additions TJ Warren and Malcolm Brogdon.

Throughout the offseason, Oladipo continued his rehab work and said in August he was looking forward to a fresh start in 2019-20. In November, Oladipo practice with the Pacers’ G League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and took part in some Pacers practices in late October. Back then, he remained non-committal on when he’d suit up again for the team. A report circulated late last month that Oladipo was targeting a late January return to the lineup and he’s been working toward that ever since.

As for the game against Chicago — should it come to pass as planned — Oladipo is ready for the emotions of that moment.

“It’s going to be a very, very emotional night,” Oladipo told Stadium. “I think more so for everybody that supported me that’s coming to watch than for me. I’m just going to go out there and play basketball what I’ve been playing since I was 4 years old.

“Granted, it’s been a minute since I played in an NBA game. But at the end of the day, after I get my feet wet and go up and down the floor … and the game just starts flowing, I’ll just be playing basketball again. I know for everyone else it’s going to be pretty emotional. I’m looking forward to that night. It’s going to be very historic, very memorable.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.