The wait is almost over. Slightly over one year from rupturing his quad tendon, Victor Oladipo plans to make his season debut against the Chicago Bulls on January 29, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Pacers star Victor Oladipo tells @Stadium he plans to make season debut on Jan. 29 against Chicago and discusses emotions returning from yearlong absence after torn quad tendon in knee. Stay tuned for my full sitdown. pic.twitter.com/lmzwsKmwav— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 8, 2020
While guesting on Fox Sports Indiana’s pregame show last week, General Manager Chad Buchanan kept to the company line of there being no official return date set but provided an update on the two-time All-Star’s physical status which made it seem as though the big day would be sooner rather than later.
“I think he’s past the body part,” Buchanan explained. “Now, it’s the basketball part — the skill, the feel, and the confidence level of getting that back. It’s been almost a year since he’s played in a competitive basketball game, so it’s not going to come back immediately for him.”
Given that an adjustment period should be expected in making the jump from scrimmaging full-court to playing in an actual game, especially due to the nature of the injury and after a 371 day hiatus, January 29th appears as though it will provide a soft spot for Oladipo to start getting up to speed. On top of being the first game back after a five-game road trip, the Wednesday night match-up with the Bulls, who by the way are 13-24, is followed by two off days before Indiana plays host to the New York Knicks (10-27). Altogether, the Pacers only have one road game between January 29th and February 20th, a span which includes the All-Star break (Feb. 14-19).
With the way that both sides have emphasized caution at every stage of his recovery, it seems fair to assumed that the Pacers will put Oladipo on a minutes restriction and likely won’t let him play in back-to-backs, of which there isn’t one until February 9th versus the New Orleans Pelicans.
That said, they didn’t hesitate to immediately reinsert their franchise player back into the starting lineup last season following his 11-game absence in November, so if that happens (or when that eventually happens), they’re going to have some tough rotation decisions to make. Jeremy Lamb undoubtedly will slide back to the bench when the time comes, but from there is where things have the potential to get dicey. There are strong, albeit disparate, cases to be made for both Aaron Holiday and T.J. McConnell at back-up point, which is to say nothing of Edmond Sumner.
As for Oladipo himself, it arguably took until after Paul George was traded to Oklahoma City for him to start looking like himself again, so it doesn’t exactly seem fair to expect the high-octane guard’s explosion to be there right away. Should that prove to be the case, then it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to see Brogdon continuing to steer his fair share of the offense with Oladipo getting more of his shots from the perimeter, at least while he and the team reacquaint themselves with each other.
For now, though, just rejoice that the Pacers are finally embarking on phase two of their season (getting Oladipo back) before worrying about what comes next (readjusting and, hopefully, clicking for the stretch-run of the season).
After all, it’s been a long time coming.
As Oladipo told Charania, “It’s definitely good to have something to look forward to.”