Pacers' Victor Oladipo Plans to Make Season Debut Jan. 29 in Return from Injury

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2020

Indiana Pacers' Victor Oladipo watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo will make his return Jan. 29 against the Chicago Bulls, a year after suffering a ruptured quad tendon in his knee.

"That could change, that might not change, who knows?" Oladipo told Shams Charania of Stadium of the target date. "But it's definitely good to have something to look forward to, especially after 12 months of wondering and hoping and not being sure—12 months of the unknown. 

"I'm way stronger now than I was before, especially mentally. So I feel like nothing can faze me, I've been through the worst."

Oladipo, 27, suffered the injury in the Jan. 23 game against the Toronto Raptors. The team assigned him to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in November as part of his rehabilitation process, though he was brought along slowly before ramping up his activity.

"You can't really simulate playing," Oladipo said when he was cleared to scrimmage in mid-October, per Scott Agness of The Athletic. "No matter how hard you try, no matter if you imagine it, dream about it, you got to go out there and actually do it—and then your body will adapt. My wind is actually really good. Probably the hardest part is not doing too much. Everything else will come. ... I'm just happy I can play again."

Oladipo has made each of the last two Eastern Conference All-Star teams, though he was unable to play in last season's game. He averaged 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists on 42.3 percent shooting, though he struggled to stay healthy for most of the season.

The Pacers have stayed afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race while awaiting Oladipo's return. Malcolm Brogdon has emerged as their leading scorer and ball distributor, though he'll likely split those duties once Oladipo returns to full health. 

It's unclear how the Pacers plan to bring him back in the fold. They will likely keep him on a minutes limit early on, and it may be advisable to sit him out in one half of back to backs for the remainder of the regular season.

Regardless, Oladipo may be the biggest addition any team makes ahead of the trade deadline.

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