As reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic on July 3rd, Victor Oladipo has opted out of playing in the Orlando Bubble, however he will travel down to Florida with the team. This of course has raised many questions in regards to his future with the Pacers, his relationship with the organization, and the team’s outlook. I’m not here to speculate on that; those questions are asked anytime a star player makes a decision in the same vein.
Questioning the discourse of the situation and the way it was handled is legitimate. Arguing Victor’s character is unfounded.
While Victor’s absence certainly hurts Indiana’s postseason chances, this move is about his long-term health and security. The odds for injury aggravation and new injury are even greater when coming off of such a lengthy layoff period. This isn't the regular cool down and ramp up process that occurs every summer; player’s have been continuing to stay in shape with limited means (in relation to the usual), had limited run in actual basketball situations, and are now going from zero basketball to playoff situations in less than a month.
Athlete’s thrive off of consistency and the dead period from March to July has been all but consistent.
In a normal season, we likely would have seen Oladipo continue to slowly progress towards a regular level of playability as the playoffs neared. For a player still rehabbing a very serious injury, those game reps are of the utmost importance to return to as close to 100% as possible.
Compound all the aforementioned variables as well as the unknowns that will pop up in Orlando, and it’s clear that opting out is the most logical decision for Victor,
Is Victor hurting the team by sitting out? Sure. If he plays and get’s injured, that hurts the team even more. It’s not just the team’s success at stake, as Victor is a free agent in the summer of 2021. What he might make on an extension from the Pacers or on the open market likely has already depreciated due to his struggles to stay on the court.
I’ve seen the arguments of Oladipo as “soft”, “quitting on his team”, or “lacking a killer instinct” which all reek of toxic masculinity. There’s this air of false bravado that comes about when decisions like this are made, and it’s bothersome. It’s seen as more honorable to charge with the light brigade and fall on your sword than to live to fight another day when you’re better rested, more prepared, and mentally ready. Somehow, making a decision that’s best for oneself’s future is seen as cowardice and I don’t stand by that. I posit that Victor made a much more difficult decision, refusing to cave and return to action when his body doesn’t feel right.
Victor Oladipo is a human just like you reading and me writing. He’s made the decision that’s best for him, his health, and his financial security. I strongly resist the idea that many of us would not make the same decision.