The Pacers being good is one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season, and that’s thanks to perhaps the single biggest surprise of the year: the play of Victor Oladipo.
Oladipo made his first All-Star team on the strength of tremendous two-way play; he’s averaging 24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block. He’s shooting 39% from three, while taking more attempts than ever, and he’s also still making plays like this, where his athleticism makes him very difficult to stop:
Vic goes coast-to-coast. pic.twitter.com/lQBNW9dITv
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) February 15, 2018
ESPN’s Mike Wells dropped a lengthy look at the impact Oladipo has made in Indy both on and off the court. The fun part is all the ways in which the piece reads as a critique of Paul George as much as it reads like praise of Oladipo:
When Oladipo arrived, he brought his work ethic and confidence to practices, games and the locker room. Those were things the Pacers were often missing last season. According to those around the team last season, excuses flew around quicker than passes on the court and younger players were too timid to speak up in the locker room because they didn’t know what the reaction would be if they said anything.
One of the strongest attributes Oladipo has shown in Indiana, according to members of the organization, is that he holds himself accountable for his actions.
“It’s kind of hard to coach young talent because they have huge egos,” coach Nate McMillan said. “They think they know everything and a lot of times you just wonder if they’re listening. This kid has a good spirit about him. It rubs off on the team, the organization. It’s fun to come to the gym and work with him.”
But that’s nothing compared to what Pacers owner Herb Simon had to say:
“After what we went through with somebody who didn’t want to be here, to have someone who really wants to be here is so rewarding and refreshing,” Simon told ESPN. “His whole spirit brought life into the whole team and the whole organization. So we love that.”
That’s an understandable position, considering the Pacers were prepared to offer Paul George a gigantic contract extension after standing by him during his lengthy rehab following that horrific leg injury, only to be repaid with what ended up being substantiated tampering and a public trade demand that seemed to undercut Indiana’s trade leverage.
In the end, though, the Pacers got the perfect asset: a 25-year-old All-Star who seems incredibly happy to be back in Indiana. (And also Domas Sabonis, in exchange for one year of Paul George.)
And Herb Simon, at least, isn’t afraid to point that out.