Oladipo's Return is Day by Day

July 31, 2020 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan and Victor Oladipo discuss his return and Saturday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Oladipo's Return is Day by Day

July 31, 2020 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan and Victor Oladipo discuss his return and Saturday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Jul 31, 2020  |  02:13

Pacers Turn Focus to Philadelphia

July 30, 2020 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan, Justin Holiday, and Doug McDermott discuss their preparation for Saturday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Jul 30, 2020  |  02:18

Oladipo "Optimistic" He'll Play Saturday

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

Pacers fans will have to wait one more day before finding out if Victor Oladipo will take the floor for Saturday's game against Philadelphia.

Though he stopped short of fully committing to playing during a Zoom call with the media on Friday, Oladipo strongly suggested the direction in which he is leaning.

"I felt good today," Oladipo said. "So we'll see what tomorrow brings. It's a day-by-day thing, but I'm optimistic."

Oladipo's status has been the biggest storyline since Indiana arrived in the NBA bubble in Orlando on July 11. Prior to departure, the two-time All-Star had announced he would not play in games when the season resumed, but he decided to reconsider his decision in the bubble.

Oladipo has participated in every practice in Orlando and started all three scrimmages the team played over the last week to prepare for the season restart.

But Pacers head coach Nate McMillan played coy with reporters after Thursday's practice, simply saying, "We will let you know about Victor come Saturday."

Oladipo offered a little more detail on Friday, but also explained why he feels unable to give a definitive answer.

At issue is Oladipo's surgically repaired right knee, where he ruptured his quad tendon in Jan. 2019 before returning earlier this season. Oladipo reiterated on Friday that he is "being cautious" with his body out of concern for his long-term health.

"It's a day-by-day thing," he said. "At the end of the day, who knows how my knee responds if I play tomorrow.

"It's an unfortunate circumstance to where I've got to just play and see…I wish I could tell you guys that I'm in it for the long haul, but it's a different situation that I'm in."

The good news is that Oladipo has not had any setbacks thus far in Orlando. And while he does give extra caution to how his knee is feeling, Oladipo said that his body "bounces back really well compared to earlier in the year."

McMillan also expressed support for Oladipo and the effort he has put in to getting back to his former All-Star level.

"He's been working extremely hard really all season long," McMillan said. "During the layoff, he was working hard on his body and getting ready for the training camp."

Assuming Oladipo does play on Saturday, it will be in a new-look starting lineup due to the absence of All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis. The Pacers went small without Sabonis in their scrimmages, inserting Aaron Holiday into a three-guard backcourt alongside Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon and moving T.J. Warren from small forward to power forward.

Oladipo expressed excitement about the possibilities of that lineup, which features three players capable of manning the point guard position and allows the Pacers to push the tempo and run more, something that plays to Oladipo's strengths.

"It will be fun to play faster," he said. "Obviously we miss Domas and we need him, but it's our way of adjusting."

While the Pacers may be playing faster, they will also be doing so for shorter bursts. McMillan said the coaching staff would monitor everyone's minutes for the first few games, which will be the first real contests the team has played since March 10.

"Once they get to seven, eight minutes, they tend to get winded," McMillan said. "That's to be expected early in these games."

McMillan said that several players would likely have a minutes restriction, in part due to the frequency of games in the bubble. The Pacers will be off Sunday but then have a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday. After that, they play every other day through Aug. 14. The playoffs begin Aug. 17 and teams are expected to play every other day in the first round.

That hectic schedule is one reason why Oladipo originally opted not to play in Orlando and will continue to be a factor in his availability moving forward.

Ultimately, it will come down to how his body holds up.

"I want to be able to perform and help the team at the highest level possible," Oladipo said. "At the end of the day, in order to do that I have to feel the best possible."

So far, at least, so good.

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