Four years ago, Miami Heat guard Victor Oladipo was coming off his second straight All-Star appearance and a budding superstar.
Then he was hit with a devastating knee injury that was followed by several setbacks. Now, Oladipo finally looks healthy again and playing like the player he once was.
“His impact defensively is unreal,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said. “He’s being one of those guys that does the dirty work … On the offensive end, he’s getting back in the floor. It reminds me of when he was the the All-Star Victor. He’s just being a star in his role on our team.”
Oladipo has averaged 17.1 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line his last eight games. The question is this: Is Oladipo back?
“It’s really encouraging,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s a major X-Factor for our team. That’s what we had hoped for. That’s what we anticipated.”
With Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry and Caleb Martin sidelined because of injury, Oladipo helped fill the void Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks. He had 20 points, five assists and three steals in a season-high 36 minutes, helping the Heat win their third straight and move four games above .500 for the first time this season.
If Oladipo continues to improve, they may can recover from the slow start and revert to the team that made last year’s Eastern Conference finals. For Oladipo, it’s been a long process. The key for him was remaining patient.
“He’s had the mental and emotional stability to let it happen at the right pace and happen organically,” Spoelstra said. “When he first came back, initially it was just to give us that defensive presence and then to be a facilitator for that second unit. It sounds great on paper but if you ask a former All-NBA player, a former All-Star, regardless of what they’ve gone through, I would say 90 percent of them would say, `No way.”‘
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Shandel Richardson covers the Miami Heat for Inside The Heat.
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