Oladipo Backing Words with Actions
Victor Oladipo tossed out his ambition for the upcoming season on Media Day with one of those off-hand comments that echo throughout every NBA team's training camp.
"I don't want to leave any stone unturned," he said. "I don't want to look back on this year and think to myself, man, I could have done this better. I had that feeling last year. I don't plan on having that feeling this year."
Words such as those only have meaning if supported by action, and five days into the Pacers' camp Oladipo has spoken loudly. Coach Nate McMillan always leaves the court for a while after practice while the players shoot around and conduct media interviews. By the time he returns, most everyone has left. By the time he's finished talking, Oladipo is the only player still on the court.
More than just casually putting up shots, he's putting in purposeful time working on skills such as a pull-up 3-pointer in transition with a hand in his face and a defended turnaround jumper on the wing. He's also gone through ball-handling drills and worked on his mid-range shot.
Oladipo's only moment of idle chit-chat Saturday morning at St. Vincent Center was to talk with former Pacers coach Slick Leonard, who was slowly making his way out of the gym behind a walker. Leonard, who spent most of the summer recovering from a broken wrist, watched practice from the sideline while seated between Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird.
Slick Leonard was back today. pic.twitter.com/WWUW7L4Vhi
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) September 29, 2018
Other than that brief sociable moment, Oladipo was busy turning over stones.
"I think he's hungry," McMillan said. "He came in last year hungry; I think he's hungrier this year. He feels he can improve and he does the things necessary to give himself an opportunity to do that.
"He was the first in today, and most days, because he's an early riser. I don't know how much that guy sleeps. He went through the whole practice. He wants to be an elite player in this league. He's working at it. If he doesn't become (elite) it won't be because he hasn't done everything in his power to become a better player."
One of the areas of needed improvement for Oladipo is one that can't be worked on in individual work after practice: reading defenses. He struggled with that some as last season wore on and his reputation throughout the league soared, particularly in Games 3, 4 and 5 against Cleveland in the opening playoff round.
McMillan hasn't made a point of double-teaming Oladipo in training camp scrimmages because he wants to practice his own team's defense. But he did set up one in Friday's session while working on end-of-game situations.
"We ended up turning the ball over, as we did last year," McMillan said.
Oladipo didn't commit the turnover, however.
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