main court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “Him being
the best player and so positive, you have no choice
but to be positive. Victor, I can’t say enough about
him. That’s how he was last year, that’s how he
always is, that’s how he’s always going to be.”
Oladipo is coming off a season that could be
viewed as an arrival. He averaged 23.1 points,
played in the All-Star Game for the first time, was
voted to the first all-Defensive team and was
named the league’s Most Improved Player.
He appears to be treating it more like a launching
pad, however. If there were any doubts whether he
could maintain the determination that propelled
him through last season, he appeared to answer
them over the summer. Not only with his workouts,
but the week-long mini-camp he organized and
partially fundedfor his teammates in Miami.
Every player except Bojan Bogdanovic, who
was playing with his national team in FIBA
competition in Europe, flew to Miami to participate.
They conditioned, they scrimmaged, they dined
together, they heard a motivational speaker and
they even went to Top Golf, where newcomer Doug
McDermott — he of the seven handicap in real golf
— dominated the competition.
It was a leadership gesture unprecedented
in franchise history. Some previous teams have gathered early in Indianapolis
before training camp and the 1999 team organized player-directed workouts
during the NBA lockout, but no player has stepped forward as forcefully as
Oladipo did last month.
Another thing about Oladipo: he lowers the volume when answering questions
“It was pretty cool and we had a good time, too,” he said of the gathering in
“I think it was a great start to our season, to step outside of our comfort zones
and get to know somebody you might not already know. Maybe that will get us
over the hump, whatever that might be.
“I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. I don’t want to look back on this year
and think to myself, man, I could have done this better. I had that feeling last year.
I don’t plan on having that feeling this year.”
Oladipo’s primary struggle last season was dealing with stardom. Coming off
a season in which he averaged 15.9 points in Oklahoma City and being part of a
trade most analysts considered a major victory for the Thunder because they
had acquired Paul George, expectations for the Pacers were tepid. The national
consensus was 32 wins, maybe 33.
But they exceeded those expectations with 48 victories, mostly because of
his expectation-exceeding season.
He scored 35 points in his fifth game, 47 points in his 26th game, and had two
more 38-point games before Christmas. But as opponents increasingly tightened
their defensive screws on him, he sometimes faltered. That was particularly true
in the first-round playoff loss to Cleveland. After scoring 32 points in Game 1 and
22 points in Game 2, the Cavs flustered him with double-teams on the perimeter.
He scored just 47 points total over the next three games, hitting 12-of-50 field
goal attempts, and failed to make them pay with assists.
He bounced back to finish the series with games
of 28 and 30 points, but flew back to Indianapolis
after the Game 7 loss to the Cavs with plenty of fuel
to become better.
So, how did he get better this summer?
That’s another thing about Oladipo. He turns coy
when the questions turn to his accomplishments or
“It would be hard for me to tell you, but I can show
you very well,” he said.
Any new skills he acquired over the summer?
“I can show you,” he said. “I’ll show you, for
sure. In about 2 1/2 weeks. I won’t even bring it out
in preseason, I’m going to wait until the regular
Whatever he has to bring, he says he’ll be ready
for whatever defenses bring. He knows he’s viewed
differently now, knows he’ll have to play differently
than last season. His days as just another guy are
over, now that he’s made himself noticed.
He says he knows what’s coming. Says he’s
prepared for it. Says he’s watched film of every game
last season. Says he’ll respond accordingly. Says
he’ll always keep a chip on his shoulder to remind
himself of past slights and to provide motivation.
“I’m going to leave it out there,” he said. “Just read
the game and play the game.”
He interrupted one of the final questions to shout out a greeting to teammate
Myles Turner, who had entered from the back of the room. When the questions
had been drained, he was back in playful mode.
“Thank you guys! Myles! You’re up!”
He launched into a rambling, joking introduction of Turner, then continued with
the jokes as Turner took his seat.
“Watch out, they attack!” he said before leaving.
Another training camp is upon the Pacers, and Victor Oladipo’s presence
already has been felt.
YOUNG HOPING TO MAINTAIN HIS PLACE WITH PACERS
It’s easy to forget about Thaddeus Young, given all that went on with the
Pacers’ roster over the summer.
There was the loss of fan favorite Lance Stephenson and two other popular
players, Glenn Robinson III and Al Jefferson, which coincided with the addition of
three free agents and two draft picks. Then came the intriguing reports of Victor
Oladipo’steam rally in Miamiand Myles Turner’sreinvention in Fort Worth.
Amid all of this, Young quietly accepted the option on the final year of his
contract rather than test free agency. That means the upcoming season could be
his last with the Pacers, or could be the bridge toward a new contract that might
take him to the end of his career with the franchise.
The strong preference in the tightly-knit Young household is for the latter
Thad crossed the threshold into his 30’s on June 21, a significant marker for
any NBA player. He’s played 11 seasons for four teams and knows he’s never had
WE GROW BASKETBALL HERE INDIANA PACERS 2018-1 9 YEARBOOK