Victor Oladipo: T.J. Warren on 'Different Planet' as NBA Restart's Top Scorer

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2020

Indiana Pacers forward T.J. Warren (1) drives to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
Kim Klement/Associated Press

First things first: T.J. Warren has always been a bucket. That said, the Indiana Pacers forward has been "on a different planet" since entering the NBA bubble, according to teammate Victor Oladipo.

Warren dropped 39 points in the Pacers' 116-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, his fourth 30-point game in Indiana's 4-1 bubble start. He's averaging 34.8 points over that five-game stretch, shooting 60.5 percent from the floor and 55.6 percent from three-point range.

"Hey look, T.J. Warren is on a different planet right now," Oladipo said. "It don't matter what I say, it don't matter what you say, it don't matter what somebody down the street say—Johnny, Barley, Ms. Susiehe locked in right now. I don't need to encourage him to do anything; he's going to put the ball in the rim regardless of who's out there."

Down 108-107 with under two minutes remaining Saturday, Warren went on a 7-0 run by himself, highlighted by a three-point dagger with 10.6 seconds left to put things away for the Pacers. Warren's 39 points were as many as LeBron James and Anthony Davis posted combined as the Lakers dropped their third straight game.

"It's me just putting in the time and work in the offseason," Warren said. "During the time off just staying locked, staying in love with the game and just being myself when I'm out there. I've got a good supporting cast, good family and friends, so that helps a lot. And the organization, the Pacers welcomed me in with open arms and brought me in, so I'm just grateful for everything right now."

Warren had just five 30-point games in the Pacers' first 65 contests before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the regular season. His Orlando ascent is the culmination of a yearslong process to improve his game. In his first four NBA seasons, Warren hit only 79 three-pointers. He's knocked down 89 treys this season, 20 of which have come in the bubble.

Making matters even more impressive: Warren's Bubble MVP run comes a little over a year after the Phoenix Suns sold him and a second-round pick to Indiana for cash considerations. No other players. No other draft picks. Just cash.

Odds are the Suns are regretting that decision right about now.