Before missing the remainder of the season with a knee injury, Victor Oladipo looked like one of the best young players in the league. He was averaging 18.8 points per game, as well as career-highs in assists and rebounds. The Pacers looked like they were clicking too, with a 26-13 record before their All-Star guard went down while getting back on defense for a fast break against the Toronto Raptors.
The Pacers were able to recover after the loss of Oladipo, finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference, but his presence was sorely missed in the first round of the playoffs when Indiana was swept by Boston. Oladipo underwent successful surgery on his torn right quad tendon in January, and has been rehabbing for the past eight months. Unfortunately for the Pacers, they'll have to wait a little longer on his return. At media day on Friday, Pacers coach Nate McMillian announced that there is no timetable for Oladipo's return.
"I don't anticipate Victor being available for a while, and I don't know what a while is," McMillan said. "There's no timetable. "I haven't had any information given to me that he will be practicing live anytime soon."
While that may be disheartening for Indiana, Oladipo's own comments about when he'll return to action should inspire some confidence that while it may not be soon, he'll be back stronger.
"When I say I'm coming back better than ever, I'm not just saying that because it sounds good. I truly believe that," Oladipo said.
Just two months after Oladipo underwent successful surgery to repair his knee, he was already training in the gym. While he wasn't able to walk normally, wearing a bulky brace to keep his knee in place, he was able to shoot flat-footed, while saying he is 'truly unbreakable."
Indiana will have to figure out how to win games without Oladipo, and the player who stepped up in his absence, Bojan Bogdanovic. After averaging a career-high 18 points last season, Bogdanovic signed with the Utah Jazz in the offseason. However, the Pacers did steal Malcolm Brogdon from Milwaukee, and signed TJ Warren during free agency. Whenever Oladipo does return, he'll be coming back to a starting lineup that has some better weapons than a year ago. On top of returning Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis who both competed in the FIBA World Cup this summer.
The Pacers shouldn't struggle in the Eastern Conference without Oladipo, but they're obviously a far better team with than without him.