Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo has been the subject of a lot of rumors this offseason, and on Friday he came forward to try and quiet the noise. In a statement to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Oladipo said he is committed to the franchise and has not requested a trade.
"I know there have been people saying that I have asked players to trade for me. That's just not true, period. I love my teammates, I cherish the state of Indiana and I'm focused on leading this franchise to a title."
Oladipo says that he has been excited to play under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren and the two have had positive dialogue in recent weeks. Oladipo, 28, is not expected to entertain an extension this offseason due to the limits of the collective bargaining agreement in relation to what Indiana can offer.
This is the second time this offseason that Oladipo has publicly pledged his loyalty to the club. Last month, he told rapper Fat Joe on Instagram, "I'm a Pacer, man I'm a Pacer, dawg. I'm a Pacer. I can't control the rumors, man. ... All of the ones on the internet, I don't even know where they come from."
But while it may be true that he hasn't directly requested management to trade him, there's been more than a few indications that he could be on the move. Multiple outlets have reported that he could be traded prior to next season, and there was a damning report just earlier this week from J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star, which indicated that during games last season, Oladipo would ask other teams if he could come play for them.
"Can I come play with y'all?" Or some iteration of the puzzling statement.
That's what Victor Oladipo said -- in front of Indiana Pacers teammates -- increasing the agitation with the star guard in the locker room, three league sources with direct knowledge of the situation told IndyStar. Aaron Turner, Oladipo's agent, didn't respond to requests for comment.
That's an extremely wild thing to do, and also doesn't sound like something a teammate, coach or team official just made up. It's also not surprising that Oladipo would come out and try to create some good PR for himself after a report that makes him look pretty bad.
Coming off a difficult two-season stretch that's been marred by injury, Oladipo is entering the final year of his contract, and is at a bit of a crossroads in his career. Prior to his injury he had won Most Improved Player and emerged as an All-NBA level guy. But in the little we saw of him on the court in his return, both before and after the shutdown, he looked nothing like his old self.
Entering what should be the prime of his career, he's eager for not only a big payday, but a chance to win a title. However, teams may not be willing to pay him what he wants -- it's worth questioning whether Indiana is truly constrained by the CBA, or if that's just a nice way of saying they aren't comfortable paying Oladipo after such a serious injury -- and the Pacers don't appear to be contenders. All of which only adds to the speculation that he could be on the move.
This is shaping up to be a wild offseason, and there's no guarantee that the Pacers will trade Oladipo. But if they don't it will be more about a desire to remain competitive, or a lack of interesting offers, rather than Oladipo's attempts to say the right thing in public. After all, it's only been a few years since a very similar saga played out in Indiana with Paul George, and we all know how that ended.