Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo has decided not to play when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes at Disney World in Orlando later this month. Oladipo tore his quad tendon last season, and made his return in late January, just about six weeks before play was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result of his health situation, Oladipo told The Athletic in an interview that he just doesn’t feel comfortable returning to play under these circumstances. However, he will still travel with the team.
“I really want to play, and as a competitor and teammate this is tearing me apart. I feel like I’m at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent. With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble I just can’t get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn’t been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I’m on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me.”
The good news is that this isn’t the result of any sort of setback during the quarantine. Both Oladipo and the Pacers believe he is healthy and progressing well, they just think returning to play under these stressful and unique conditions is not worth the risk. Especially considering that players who suffer the same injury as Oladipo are more susceptible to soft tissue injuries in the ensuing years.
“This kind of injury takes a while to get back from,” Oladipo’s physical therapist said. “This is a very rare injury. He’s playing this smart and we look at it as: He came back, he got into rotation, he got a feel for the game and his knee really responded well — and we had to shut this whole thing down from the pandemic. We haven’t been able to play five-on-five yet due to circumstances. Now we’re asking guys to ramp up in 21 days. That’s just a real short time window for a person with his kind of injury.”
Heading into Orlando, there are all sorts of health concerns, mostly related to the coronavirus pandemic — and for good reason, as cases are surging, and we still don’t fully understand the long-term effects of the illness. However, the potential for increased risk of injuries is a serious issue as well.
Most players were not able to train like they normally do over the past few months, and will now be forced to ramp up into a training camp situation, then high-intensity games in a rather short amount of time. For guys like Oladipo who are already dealing with the effects of a serious injury, it makes sense to take the long-term approach.
From a basketball perspective, this is obviously a big blow to the Pacers’ chances of making some noise in the East. They were actually a bit worse with Oladipo on the court (minus-2.6 net rating differential) in the 13 games since he returned, and he hadn’t quite found his rhythm. But that was a small sample size after he just returned from a year off, and he’s by far their most talented player.
Now, they’ll have to play in Orlando without him. Heading into the restart they are tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for fifth place in the Eastern Conference at 39-26, and while they are still within striking distance of the Miami Heat for the fourth seed, getting there doesn’t matter as much with no homecourt advantage anymore.