Victor Oladipo sits at a locker with an ice pack on his knee. He's staring at his phone with a straight look on his face. For someone that is having the best season of his career, he seems calm.
The Indiana Pacers have won four in a row, and in a close game against his first team, the Orlando Magic, Oladipo was the clear difference with 29 points, nine rebounds, seven steals and five assists. There is no sign of surprise from anyone, though. This is the new normal for him.
"I just went out there and played hard, man," Oladipo said. "It doesn't matter where we are at or who we are playing, I just come out and play as hard as I can."
The Pacers are his third team in three years. The former No. 2 overall pick has twice been traded for bigger names, but that hasn't slowed him down individually. It has only forced him to adjust and find ways to get better.
When the Pacers traded Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, many suggested they had been swindled. George was a superstar player. Oladipo is a fifth-year veteran on an expensive contract who still was known more for his athleticism than his output. How can he possibly be worth what Indiana gave away?
"I think I've improved a little bit everywhere," Oladipo said. "My mindset especially I think has improved a lot. Getting comfortable with my teammates. Getting comfortable with the system we're running here. Just taking it one day at a time."
While he's certainly no George, Oladipo has been everything the Pacers were hoping for and more. He's averaging 22.6 points, five rebounds and 3.7 assists. Part of that uptick is coming thanks to the Pacers' dynamic offense and pace. However, Oladipo is shooting 44 percent from 3-point range. He has a True Shooting percentage of 57 percent. He's taking more shots than ever, and he's making them too.
What brought about this offensive revolution? How has someone who has, for his entire career, been at best a high-usage slasher found a way to be one of the NBA's most effective threats? He's learned.
"He absorbs everything that you tell him," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. "I've had more film sessions with him than I've had really with any player. It's 'cause he wants to get better. ... He's a guy that watches a lot of film. He wants to learn. He wants to improve. We've been able to see some growth in his game from some of those film sessions."
Growth is one way to put it. It's more like an explosion. The role Oladipo plays now isn't exactly the same, but the expectation of him as a go-to scorer is what he was supposed to do in Orlando. He had moments, but he was never able to put it together consistently. Of course, he wasn't shooting the way he is right now in Indiana.
"He's playing at an All-Star level," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "The best basketball of his career. He's always been a great basket attacker, slasher, and defender. The way he's shooting the ball from the 3-point line is what separates where he's been prior to this year. Not just shooting open corner 3s, but shooting them off the bounce, off pin-downs, a lot of different ways and it puts a lot more pressure on the defense to close out."
His former teammates see a different demeanor in Oladipo. Yes, he's playing well, but the Indiana environment around him is somewhere he can embrace.
"[He's] playing really aggressive and I'm happy for him," Nikola Vucevic said. "It's not easy [being] traded for the second time in a year. But I think Indiana is a great team for him. They're a young team. He gets to do a lot of things offensively and I know he went to school there so I know he likes it there a lot."
Aaron Gordon added, "He looks like he's home. He looks like he's found a home that he can stay for a long time. He looks very comfortable there. He's always been a very talented person, so I'm super-happy for him."
Oladipo made his name at Indiana, and the Hoosiers faithful still wildly cheer for him at games. Even former IU coach Tom Crean was in attendance in Orlando.
"He will always be my coach," Oladipo said, "He will always be a father figure to me and always be my Coach. [He will] always be a man that when I look at him he believed in me before anyone else did."
Oladipo might be having a great season so far, but talking to him you wouldn't know it. This is just another day as he works towards being the best he can be. As the young Pacers grow, so will he.
"I'm glad to be a Pacer," Oladipo said "I feel like I'm home."