The calls went out one by one, eagerly and as quickly, long before the ink had dried on a contract. T.J. Warren, Jeremy Lamb, Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. McConnell, and Justin Holiday all received calls from their future Victor Oladipo once word got out they were joining the Pacers.
Never mind that Oladipo had never shared a roster with any of them, didn’t know them particularly well and has been heavily immersed in his own world of rehabilitation from the quadricep tendon tear he suffered last January. For anyone wondering to what degree the Pacers’ only All-Star selection is supporting all the offseason changes, that’s the first clue.
“As a leader I have to go out of my way to make sure my troops are ready and make sure they feel welcome when they come on board,” Oladipo said Saturday from the Pacers Athletic Center in Westfield. “I just felt like it was my duty and obligation to tell them I appreciate that they believe in our organization first and foremost and that we welcome them with open arms, and we’re trying to do something special.”
Oladipo — who worked out with Brogdon and McConnell in Las Vegas during Summer League play — is optimistic about the turnover because of the potential for an improved offense. The Pacers allowed fewer points than any NBA team last season but ranked only 22nd in scoring. Their field goal percentage was fourth best in the NBA but they ranked 27th in field goal attempts and 29th in 3-point shot attempts.
Although departed starters Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young, and Bojan Bogdanovic were high percentage shooters last season, he believes improved athleticism and versatility will manufacture more points.
“We just have a lot of weapons,” he said. “Malcolm and T.J. Warren, Jeremy Lamb, all the new guys can pretty much score the ball at a pretty high level. It’s going to be fun to watch. It’s going to be fun to see how quickly we can come together and how we’ll click and work. I’m looking forward to it.”
Oladipo said he will soon return to his offseason base in Miami and then come back to Indianapolis for the start of training camp in September. He doesn’t know whether he’ll be an immediate participant in camp, however.
“I’m not sure yet,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Whenever Oladipo returns, he’ll likely find himself amid a starting lineup with three new members — Brogdon, Warren, and Domantas Sabonis, who is expected to be elevated from the bench to the starting lineup. It will be a lineup filled with scorers, without a traditional role player in sight, but he doesn’t expect to have to make major adjustments to his approach.
“When I start thinking like that is when I go crazy,” he said. “I’ll go out and play my game at the highest level I can.”
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Mark Montieth’s book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, “Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis,” is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.
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