It's Time #Ready4Action

Jalen Rose narrates the story of Victor Oladipo's return to game action.

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It's Time #Ready4Action

Jalen Rose narrates the story of Victor Oladipo's return to game action.
Jan 29, 2020  |  02:35

Oladipo Ready to Make Season Debut

Jan. 28, 2020 - Pacers guard Victor Oladipo discusses his anticipation to return to the court for Wednesday's game against the Chicago Bulls at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Jan 28, 2020  |  02:49

McMillan on Plan, Expectations for Oladipo's Return

Jan. 28, 2020 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan discusses Victor Oladipo returning to the court for Wednesday's game against Chicago and how he will be reintegrated into the lineup.
Jan 28, 2020  |  02:20

Oladipo Reflects on the Passing of Kobe Bryant

Jan. 28, 2020 - Pacers guard Victor Oladipo discusses the tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and reflects on Bryant's life and legacy.
Jan 28, 2020  |  03:56

Remembering Other Pacers Comebacks

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Victor Oladipo's return to the Pacers on Wednesday is reminiscent of some other highly anticipated comebacks from long absences by star players in the franchise's history.

Here's a look at four others that inspired standing ovations from the fans.

Lance Stephenson

Date: April 4, 2017

Stephenson had tongue-wagged his way into the heart of the Pacers' fanbase in the 2013-14 season when he set a franchise record for triple-doubles with five on a team that made a return trip to the conference finals. Then he was gone, taking poor advice to reject the Pacers' contract offer and sign with Charlotte, which relegated him to journeyman status.

He played for the Hornets, the Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans, and Timberwolves before returning to the Pacers in April of 2017. He was the perfect addition to a laid-back team that was perilously short of adrenaline and lit up both the team and the city.

His first game back with the Pacers was at Cleveland on April 2, then he made his Fieldhouse debut two days later against Toronto before a near-sellout crowd. The Raptors were 47-30 heading into the game but were no match for the Pacers, who outscored them by 29 points in the second half in an 18-point victory.

Stephenson came off the bench to score 12 points in 25 minutes. More importantly, his mere presence altered the team's personality and reversed the course of the season. The Pacers went on to win their final five games to qualify for the playoffs.

"It was fun," said Paul George, who had scored 43 points in Stephenson's first game back and 35 points in this one. "The atmosphere was amazing. I haven't felt that in a long time."

Paul George

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Paul George

Date: April 5, 2015

After breaking his leg in a game for Team USA on Aug. 1 the previous summer, George returned for the final six games of the regular season. His debut drew a sellout crowd to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Pacers' 23-point victory was practically an afterthought.

George entered the game midway through the first quarter and hit his first shot, an off-balance 14-footer after curling off a Roy Hibbert screen. He went on to hit three 3-point shots and finished with 13 points in 14 1/2 minutes on wobbly legs that were healed but not in game shape. He played the final six games of the season, helping the Pacers make a playoff run that fell one game short.

Nobody knew what was to come two years later when George made his trade request, but on this night his relationship with Pacers fans had never been more secure. He left the game to a standing ovation with 7:16 remaining in what seemed like a near-perfect comeback.

"It was what I dreamed of," he said afterward.

"I felt everything was scripted."

Jermaine O'Neal

Date: Dec. 25, 2004

O'Neal was suspended 25 games for his involvement in the fracas at the Palace of Auburn Hills in November. He was able to return after 15 games after filing a protest, and as fate would have it he returned for a nationally televised Christmas Day game against the same Detroit Pistons at The Fieldhouse.

Greeted with a standing ovation by the capacity crowd as he took the court for the opening tip. He smacked the pad in front of the scorer's table as if to declare his arrival, but showed the effects of his layoff in the first half. He was better in the second half and finished with 21 points on 7-of-19 shots, seven rebounds, and five blocked shots through 38 minutes in a five-point loss.

"I was really nervous coming onto the court because I wanted to play so well for the fans," he said.

O'Neal had to go to court in New York later in the week to see if his appeal for a reduced suspension was upheld, and it was.

George McGinnis

Date: Feb. 5, 1980

McGinnis had led Washington High School to an undefeated season and state championship in 1969, starred as a sophomore at Indiana University before signing with the Pacers and then played a major role in the Pacers' final two ABA championships.

He was the MVP of the 1973 finals when the Pacers won a seven-game series over Kentucky and shared league MVP honors with Julius Erving in the 1974-75 season, when he had the best statistical season a Pacer has ever had — averaging 29.8 points, 14.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 2.6 steals per game.

He left after that season to sign a contract with Philadelphia in the NBA that was too rich for the Pacers' blood. After three seasons with the Sixers and 1 1/2 with Denver, he was reacquired in a trade that sent Alex English to the Nuggets.

The deal had negative longterm impact on the Pacers and wasn't even unanimously popular among Pacers fans, some of whom thought McGinnis had betrayed the team by leaving for the NBA. But a capacity crowd of nearly 17,000 fans filled Market Square Arena for his return — against Philadelphia of all teams.

McGinnis received a 45-second standing ovation when he reported into the game in the first quarter and finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. The 76ers won by a point on Erving's two free throws with three seconds left but hope of making the playoffs was instilled in a team that dropped to 26-29 with the loss.

"I've never seen a crowd this excited at a Pacer game," one season ticket holder was overheard saying according to a story in The Indianapolis News.

The Pacers didn't make the playoffs as it turned out, but McGinnis was able to take his career full circle and finish it in the city in which it began. He played the rest of that one and two more before being forced into retirement at age 31.


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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