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Pacers’ Oladipo set for 1st game after recovery from injury

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Victor Oladipo spent 12 months working, wondering and watching. He strengthened his body, his mind, his injured right knee and promised to return a better player.

Posted: Jan 29, 2020 12:40 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Victor Oladipo spent 12 months working, wondering and watching. He strengthened his body, his mind, his injured right knee and promised to return a better player.

Now, he’s finally healthy enough to start proving it.

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The All-Star guard expects to make his long-anticipated season debut Wednesday when the Indiana Pacers host Chicago.

“I don’t expect to do anything out there miraculous, I just expect to play basketball to the best of my ability,” he said Tuesday. “I know I’ll get better as time goes on and I’ve got to be patient with my body and patient with the game. But I’m a competitor. I know it isn’t going to be easy.”

Oladipo probably knew that much the moment he couldn’t get up after crashing to the floor late in the first half of last January’s game against Toronto.

He left the court on a stretcher amid a crescendo of cheers from his adoring fans.

Players around the league quickly took to social media to offer their encouragement, too.

The next day, team officials announced Oladipo needed season-ending surgery on a ruptured quad tendon, setting off a prolonged recovery period.

By the time he returned to practice, at training camp, the Pacers had a revamped roster.

They acquired three new starters during the offseason — Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren — and added forward Domantas Sabonis to the lineup.

Meanwhile, Oladipo continued rehabbing and started making semi-regular trips to Fort Wayne, working with Indiana’s G League affiliate for the final phase of his comeback.

“I was trying to get as much as I could out of my rehab so eventually I could have a day like (Wednesday),” Oladipo said.

The Pacers will play it safe with their top star, at least initially.

Coach Nate McMillan told reporters Tuesday that Oladipo’s minutes will be limited until after the All-Star break. He declined to provide specifics and wouldn’t say whether Oladipo would start or come off the bench against the Bulls.

But with Indiana holding the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference, at 30-17, and just 2 1/2 games out of the No. 2 spot without Oladipo, there’s no need to push him back.

Oladipo’s return will change things.

“This will be the first time we have all of our guys back and all of us are going to have to sacrifice, even Victor,” McMillan said, citing an extraordinarily large media contingent at practice as an indication of what will be different. “It’s not going to be all about Victor. It’s about us. Roles are going to change. The rotation is going to change. So you can embrace it or you can go against it. I expect us to embrace it.”

Adjusting on the fly is part of the basketball business.

Last week, the New Orleans Pelicans got their first real glimpse of Zion Williamson, last summer’s top overall draft pick.

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid was cleared to play Tuesday after missing three weeks with a dislocated finger on his left hand. The Golden State Warriors could get Stephen Curry (broken left hand) back following the All-Star break. Klay Thompson also remains out with a torn ACL in his left knee.

For Oladipo, the obstacles have been daunting.

“Getting my range of motion back was the most unique thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, learning how to force yourself to bend your knee,” he said. “Every morning for a month or month and a half, I was waking up with a rope trying to pull my knee to my butt in excruciating pain. It’s like, do you really have to teach your knee how to bend again?”

Yet, here he is 371 days later, wearing white padded sleeves over his knees, shooting 3-pointers and still laughing and singing. His mother and sister are already in town to watch the big return and some friends will join them Wednesday, too.

But all that time away from the game also has helped Oladipo develop new perspective on life.

All those well wishers, who offered support and prayers, helped Oladipo understand the value he has on and off the court. The long journey back forced him to become even more patience, a trait that could come in handy as he tries to regain his pre-injury form.

“Whenever you’ve been off for that long, you don’t just come back,” McMillan said. “A year is a long time and it takes you a while to get your timing and rhythm, your feel and trust. All of that takes some time. So I don’t expect him to be the Victor of old tomorrow. I expect him to go out and play.”

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 590211

Reported Deaths: 9310
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion815581297
Lake44306666
Allen31919541
Hamilton28371304
St. Joseph26766371
Elkhart24098341
Vanderburgh18643213
Tippecanoe17422121
Johnson14496284
Porter14399160
Hendricks13870241
Madison10561212
Vigo10483171
Clark10240130
Monroe9076108
Delaware8836132
LaPorte8771155
Howard7897138
Kosciusko787277
Warrick643890
Hancock638797
Bartholomew626694
Floyd6150105
Wayne5933157
Grant5818110
Dubois544372
Boone534367
Morgan516291
Marshall494184
Henry493664
Cass471760
Noble460557
Dearborn458444
Jackson414745
Shelby402179
Lawrence380575
Clinton364539
Gibson356556
DeKalb337363
Montgomery334851
Harrison328542
Knox327839
Miami309843
Steuben306340
Adams295235
Whitley294125
Wabash293045
Ripley292345
Putnam284847
Huntington283557
Jasper282433
White267538
Daviess261672
Jefferson250738
Fayette242348
Decatur242182
Greene233360
Posey232326
Wells229447
LaGrange224161
Clay217932
Scott216937
Randolph208340
Jennings192535
Sullivan189031
Spencer181917
Fountain179725
Washington177118
Starke171341
Jay162821
Owen159537
Fulton159229
Carroll152115
Orange151433
Rush149918
Perry147227
Vermillion144933
Franklin143433
Parke12908
Tipton128232
Pike113625
Blackford107522
Pulaski95237
Newton89421
Brown85530
Benton84310
Crawford7579
Martin70013
Warren6587
Switzerland6205
Union6113
Ohio4677
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 826754

Reported Deaths: 10200
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin97493705
Cuyahoga821781012
Hamilton61350439
Montgomery41700399
Summit33399726
Lucas30111597
Butler29721228
Stark24811400
Warren18917139
Lorain18086212
Mahoning16758335
Lake15365135
Clermont15160104
Delaware1382177
Licking12679132
Trumbull12401302
Fairfield1218480
Greene11631133
Medina11128165
Clark10608264
Wood9964154
Allen9511126
Portage8867105
Miami886573
Richland8790116
Marion7319113
Tuscarawas7142174
Columbiana7085124
Pickaway702850
Wayne6781164
Muskingum671242
Erie5886118
Hancock537890
Ross530287
Scioto519662
Geauga483555
Darke457589
Ashtabula439068
Lawrence432651
Union430628
Mercer424287
Sandusky421862
Seneca413555
Auglaize412759
Huron410338
Shelby410221
Jefferson403366
Belmont395640
Washington372040
Putnam364672
Athens36369
Madison339329
Knox336522
Ashland331738
Fulton325943
Defiance319278
Crawford313268
Preble311534
Brown296619
Logan292729
Ottawa282134
Clinton279043
Williams270166
Highland262418
Jackson256943
Guernsey241725
Champaign240927
Fayette225529
Morrow22294
Perry221318
Holmes218662
Henry210247
Hardin204133
Coshocton197420
Van Wert196644
Gallia190926
Wyandot190549
Adams165615
Pike164116
Hocking163423
Carroll149516
Paulding139021
Noble117840
Meigs103221
Monroe95629
Harrison8568
Morgan79128
Vinton67113
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