Victor Oladipo’s impressive start to the NBA season was enhanced by his absence in the Pacers’ last four games due to a sore right knee. Not only did the Pacers lose all four games but the game seemed to become hard for everyone without the threat Vic has posed to opponents all year.
At least that’s how it appears. It also appears fans have noticed the big impact VO has on the blue and gold. The early NBA All-Star voting returns were released on Thursday and Oladipo is currently third in voting among guards in the Eastern Conference, closer to second (DeMar DeRozan) than fourth (Ben Simmons).
Obviously, the Pacers’ recent slump has more to do with the collective regression of other key players in the lineup, but I’m sure all will be happy to see Oladipo return. Despite their best efforts, no one was able to step up and fill the void left by Oladipo, but after practicing with the team on Thursday, the Pacers’ new star proclaimed himself ready to return on Saturday when the Pacers host the Bulls.
However, Oladipo downplayed his return holding any magic to turn things around by himself.
“There are five dudes out there, man. I’m just one guy,” Oladipo said. “I’m just here trying to help. We’re going to be all right. It was a rough stretch everybody went through. Some teams doing well now went through it early. We’re going through it now. It’s just about resilience and trying to figure it out.”
The Pacers’ “rough stretch” (losing five in a row and 8 of their last 11 games) hit as their schedule difficulty was supposed to ease up. The recent losses squandered the impressive start that had them six games over .500 against the fourth most difficult schedule at the time. Things will turn more difficult again over the next few weeks with more challenging games on the road, but the team remains in the mix among a group seven or so teams battling for the a few playoff spots in the East.
If Oladipo’s returns with his All-Star level of play and flips the fortunes of the Pacers back in the right direction, not only will he earn more All-Star votes but eventually a few MVP votes, as well.
Here is a look at the early fan voting totals for the NBA All-Star game.