Victor Oladipo is downplaying just how much of an impact Dan Gilbert’s comments about the infamous Thunder-Pacers trade had on him, but he does acknowledge it added fuel to his fire.
Oladipo was traded by the Thunder along with Domantas Sabonis over the summer for Paul George. Many thought the Pacers were ripped off in the deal and could have gotten much more for their star player. Among that group was Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who said the Pacers could have done better.
Now with the Pacers and Cavs meeting in the first round of the playoffs, Oladipo is being faced with those questions. He acknowledged after Indiana’s Game 1 win over the Cavs that the comment did fire him up.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said Pacers "could have done better" in Paul George trade.
Victor Oladipo, after 32P/ 6R/4A in Game 1 win, on Gilbert's words: "You could say he added fuel to the fire." pic.twitter.com/6v5J36hLuE
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 15, 2018
“I already had fuel. You could say it added fuel to the fire. That was so long ago. I’m aware of what he said. You can’t control his opinion. All I’m focused on is myself,” Oladipo said.
Oladipo is off to a great start in the playoffs. He shot 11 of 19, including 6 of 9 on threes, to score a game-high 32 points in the Pacers’ 98-80 win in Cleveland. He’s already shut up critics through his play this year. He’s doing even more now.
Victor Oladipo has thrived in his first season with the Indiana Pacers, and the advice from coach Nate McMillan has helped.
On Sunday as the Pacers opened up the playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers, ABC’s broadcast team shared how McMillan has gotten the most out of Oladipo. According to Vic, McMillan has told him to be more of an a– hole.
This quote was shared by ABC via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
“(McMillan) told me, ‘You have to become a little more of an a–hole.’ At the beginning of the year, he always told me to be more of an a–hole. He said people shouldn’t like you. It was like, ‘What do you mean? I am.’ So when I see him, I make jokes. I told him, ‘I had a dream of kicking your a–.’ It’s little stuff like that just to get me motivated.”
Perhaps McMillan’s words have helped Oladipo gain and play with an edge. After three seasons in Orlando and one in Oklahoma City, Oladipo is playing to his full potential with the Pacers. He averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, while making a career-best 47.7 percent of his field goals. Beyond changing his mentality, Oladipo also might be motivated by proving people wrong about the infamous Thunder trade.
This NBA season has been one for the books. Think of all the narratives: the drama-filled Cavs, the injury-riddled Celtics, the red-hot Rockets and Raptors, the crazy trade deadline, the inconsistent Warriors — the list goes on.
With the playoffs approaching (they start this Saturday), we still don’t know which teams will match up. Will Houston square off with Utah, New Orleans, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Minnesota, or Denver? Considering the unpredictability of this season, your guess is as good as mine.
Though we don’t yet know which teams will see each other, we do have an idea of which players will play a salient role in shaping the NBA playoffs. Here’s a look at 15 of those players.
15. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The Greek Freak has looked a year away from total domination this season. Though many fans expected the Bucks would make the leap to become an Eastern Conference contender this year, the squad has disappointed. They underperformed with Jason Kidd, who was fired midway through the season, and they’ve underperformed with Joe Prunty. Giannis will need to be at his best — he’ll need to be ready now — for Milwaukee to steal a series. He missed Saturday’s game against New York with ankle soreness, the sixth game he’s missed this year.
14. Chris Paul, Houston Rockets
Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey both seemed supremely confident the Chris Paul/James Harden experiment would be a hit. This season has made them look like prophets. The Rockets, behind their voluminous three-point shooting, have been easily the best team in the league, cruising to a 64-16 record. Their postseason success will ultimately boil down to the success of their two stars. Paul has never made it to the NBA Finals — could this be the year he finally breaks through? He has his best supporting cast to date.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson gave his support to Victor Oladipo for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award and took a shot at Oladipo’s former team.
Oladipo was one of the players the Pacers received in the trade that sent Paul George to the Thunder. Since arriving in Indianapolis, Oladipo has played the best basketball of his professional career. He’s averaging career highs in points (24), rebounds (5.4), assists (4.3), and leads the league in steals (2.2).
Last month, Oladipo made his first All-Star Game appearance. If Robinson had his way, that wouldn’t be the only honor Oladipo receives this season. Robinson touted Oladipo to win the Most Improved Player Award. He also took a swipe at the Magic, saying they have a reputation of trading away good players.
Vic Oladipo gotta win most improved right ? Orlando be trading away all their solid pieces
— Allen Robinson II (@Thee_AR15) March 5, 2018
Prior to this season’s trade deadline, Orlando sent point guard Elfrid Payton to the Suns. Last year, Serge Ibaka was dealt to the Raptors. Before that, the Magic traded Tobias Harris to the Pistons and Oladipo to the Thunder.
Robinson’s point about the Magic trading solid pieces is valid and one that is likely shared by many fans of the team.
Victor Oladipo went Hollywood while in Los Angeles for the Slam Dunk contest.
The Indiana Pacers guard performed a cool “Black Panther” dunk for his second dunk in the contest. Actor Chadwick Boseman, who plays the titular superhero in the Marvel movie “Black Panther”, was sitting courtside for the dunk contest at Staples Center on Saturday night. Oladipo came over to Boseman and was given a Black Panther mask to wear.
Oladipo put on the mask and attempted a dunk. He missed his first attempt but stuffed home the second, much to the delight of fans and Boseman.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 18, 2018
Victor Oladipo borrowed Black Panther's mask for his dunk attempt! pic.twitter.com/gRY79OyIk1
— SB Nation (@SBNation) February 18, 2018
We certainly love the creativity and product placement in Oladipo’s dunk.
The big hits were Dennis Smith Jr.’s dunk that scored a perfect 50, Larry Nance Jr.’s Vince Carter dunk, and Donovan Mitchell’s Dr. Dunkenstein tribute.
Sure, it’s fun to observe how superstar talent adjusts to a new habitat — Chris Paul finding his wings in Houston, Jimmy Butler howling at the moon in Minnesota, and Kyrie Irving projecting Force ghosts in Boston. But often times, the more rewarding exercise is pinpointing the summer acquisitions who have given their new teams the best bang for their buck in spite of little fanfare and infrequent appearances on World Wide Wob’s Twitter feed. Here are 10 players who have best exemplified that latter category so far this year.
*Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com*
Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana Pacers
If you love somebody, set them free from Russell Westbrook. That’s exactly what Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti did this offseason in dealing Oladipo to the Indiana Pacers as part of the Paul George trade, and the fifth-year guard has been on a killing spree ever since. Oladipo’s 24-5-4 averages this season are close to Miami Heat-era Dwyane Wade-type production out of the 2 spot. His 42.5 percent shooting from deep is a wonder of the modern world. Oladipo has become Indiana’s starter, finisher, and Messiah all wrapped up in one. An All-Star nod this February is probably a realistic expectation, which is saying something considering how much Indiana was questioned when they made the trade.
Enes Kanter, C, New York Knicks
While we’re on the topic of Oklahoma City refugees, here is another one who is having himself a nice little season. In between becoming The Empire State’s most beloved enforcer, Kanter is producing career-highs in rebounds (10.1) and assists per game (1.7) while also bumping up his shooting efficiency to a DeAndre Jordan-esque 60.2 percent. His defense isn’t just Shaqtin’ A Fool fodder anymore either, as Kanter is finally in positive territory in defensive box score plus-minus for the first time in seven NBA seasons. A fitting blue-collar bopper alongside the unicorn superstardom of Kristaps Porzingis in the Knicks frontcourt, Kanter is the sidekick that America needs right now.
Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo was the major piece in the summer’s Paul George trade, and the move to Indianapolis has agreed with him. He’s averaging career bests in points per game with 24.5 and rebounds per game at 5.3, and is putting on a show regularly, including a 47-point game against Denver on Sunday.
It is only natural, then, that Oladipo would be frequently compared to the man he was traded for. The 25-year-old doesn’t want to hear it, however.
This from #Victor Oladipo, on the trade that brought him to #Pacers – "I'm kind of getting sick and tired of the comparisons with Paul George and myself. He's moved on. I moved on. I'm happy here, he's happy there. I wish him all the best. I'm feathery, right here as a Pacer."
— Clifton Brown (@CliftonGBrown) December 11, 2017
Both Oladipo and the Pacers as a whole are having better seasons than George and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The former Pacer has openly admitted to growing frustrated, while the man who he replaced seems to be having a great time. The comparisons are always going to happen given the nature of the deal, but Oladipo can rightly point out that he’s simply been better, for various reasons.