Victor Oladipo
NBAE/Getty Images

Oladipo Using Hiatus to Continue to Get Stronger

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

Spend any time at all around Victor Oladipo and one of the first things you'll notice is his positive attitude. Pacers coach Nate McMillan refers to his star guard's upbeat demeanor as "sunshine," while Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard has termed it "infectious."

Oladipo once again showcased that positivity when he spoke with the Indianapolis media for the first time since the NBA suspended its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, chatting with reporters on Thursday evening via conference call.

Though the sudden halt to the season came just six weeks into Oladipo's return after a full year of rehab, he said on Thursday that he is choosing to see the positives in the stoppage, especially as the world deals with far more serious issues.

"Still working, still rehabbing," he said. "Even though the world is kind of slowing down, it's given me a chance to reset."

The two-time All-Star made his season debut on Jan. 29 after a year-long absence due to a ruptured quad tendon. He played in 13 games, starting 10 before the season was suspended and was playing his best basketball before the abrupt stoppage.

Oladipo hit the game-winning shot in the Pacers' 112-109 victory at Dallas on March 8. He followed that up with his best game of the season two nights later in Indiana's last game before the hiatus, scoring a season-high 27 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists in a 114-111 loss to the Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, going 9-for-16 from the field and 5-for-7 from 3-point range.

Still, Oladipo said he was not frustrated that the stoppage came so soon after he appeared to find another gear and that it could end up benefiting his long-term health.

"I can look at it like I was just getting my rhythm back or my flow going, or I can be optimistic and look at it as an opportunity to rest and to still have an opportunity to continue building strength in my tendon, let the body be able to heal naturally," Oladipo said.

"To say I was 100 percent out there, I don't know that I can say that, coming off an injury...I have no control over COVID-19. I have no control over what's going on right now. But I have control over my mentality. Even though there's limitations, there's still ways I can get better."

Despite social distancing restrictions, Oladipo has been able to work out every day. He transformed his garage into a weight room and also has access to a private gym, allowing him to do exercises to continue to strengthen his surgically repaired quad tendon and knee.

Oladipo admitted that it has been "a little weird" to be separated from the rest of the world, but he has found ways to stay busy. He said he has spent a lot more time reading and writing, two activities that he enjoys but doesn't have much time to do during the grind of the NBA season.

Oladipo has also been active on social media during the hiatus. He performed a live concert on the NBA's Instagram account on March 27 and on subsequent Fridays has hosted "BASE:LINE Live," a live concert series featuring UnitedMasters independent artists, on the NBA account.

Like the rest of the world, Oladipo said that the global pandemic has put a lot of things into perspective for him, especially the power of sports.

"They say that sports has a way of bringing people together," he said. "You don't really realize it until now when there's absolutely no sports anywhere.

"It doesn't only provide opportunities for different people from different ethnicities and different backgrounds to come together and root for one common goal, it also just brings entertainment. It brings excitement. It brings happiness. So the fact that all those things have been taken away from society, it's been a major hit for us."

While Oladipo does not know when he might get a chance to take the court again for the Pacers, he looks forward to the day when the NBA and sports can resume and is hopeful that it can help offer joy after an unprecedented time of crisis.

"I think that sports starting up again would be beneficial not only to us as athletes, but to the entire world," Oladipo said.

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