Victor Oladipo appreciative of All-Star selection, but not content

The Pacers recently sent an email to the other 29 head coaches in the league to state the case for them to vote Victor Oladipo into the 2018 All-Star game. He did not win the popularity contest and so he was not named a starter last week.

The Pacers’ message was simple: “Facts are facts,” Nate McMillan said earlier Tuesday. “You look at his numbers, you look at the team’s numbers and what we’ve done, and what he’s done, I think that speaks for itself.”

He’s having the best season of his career, easily. His 24.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.9 steals are all career highs. His field goal shooting (48.4 percent) and 3-point shooting (40.2 percent) are too. On top of that, he’s averaging 3.9 assists and has helped the Pacers to a 25-22 start to the season, his first with the franchise.

Tuesday night, Oladipo’s relentless work ethic, positivity attitude, and team-first mentally were rewarded when he was officially named to his first All-Star game, set for Sunday, Feb. 18 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

“Definitely a blessing to be considered [an All-Star]. I credit my teammates because obviously it’s a team game and without them, I wouldn’t have accomplished a lot of things that I have accomplished individually and we wouldn’t accomplish anything without each other. It’s a team thing so I credit them for all of my success.

“I’m just going to keep working hard so I can continue to keep getting better because honestly, I really feel like I have a lot to improve and a lot to grow.”

[Oladipo’s teammates react to his All-Star selection]

[Oladipo trademarks feathery, has big plans ahead]

Once Oladipo got the official word Tuesday, he planned to call his mother, Joan.

“That woman believed in me when I was in the womb, before I was even born,” shared Oladipo, who grew up in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. “She saw something that no one else saw, from when I was a little kid walking around to the man I am today. That woman is my number one fan and my biggest critic.”

Oladipo instantly committed himself to this team, courtside at Summer League in Orlando.

His relationship with his father, Chris, hasn’t been great. But it’s gotten better. His dad wanted Victor to focus on academics and he attended only a few of his son’s games. He has never been to Indianapolis and never went to Bloomington despite Oladipo playing three seasons at IU.

Coincidentally, their relationship started to be repaired over the All-Star break last season.

“Our relationship is a lot better and he’s a great man,” he said in October. “I talked to him and I saw life through his eyes and grew a new appreciation for the fact of why he did things and I learned a lot. I love my dad.”

After calling his mom to tell her the good news, dad would be next.

Over this past summer, even before he was traded for the second time, Oladipo dedicated himself to basketball. He worked out several times a day in Miami, cleaned up what he ate, and trimmed up. He then participated in the NBA Africa Game in August and was named MVP after finishing with 28 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. Then, before training camp opened teammate Darren Collison said Oladipo had All-Star potential.

[Oladipo on his signature celebration —This Is My House]

His contributions to the Pacers have been obvious. Instead of big drop off as widely expected, they are better than last season and way more exciting and fun to watch. These guys enjoy one another and play hard each night, something fans don’t take for granted.

Without him this season, the Pacers are winless (0-5). With him, they are 25-17.

“What I base my selection on is not just your numbers individually, but what have you done for your team and the types of success your team has had,” McMillan said.

Starting center Myles Turner: “He’s been able to lead this team, especially at the beginning of the year when we needed that spark. “He’s just been a difference maker out there. An All-Star, what it’s about is how much you can affect your team. And he’s affected us in a very positive way.

The other six Eastern Conference players voted to the All-Star game: Washington’s Bradley Beal and John Wall, Boston’s Al Horford, Cleveland’s Kevin Love, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, and New York’s Kristaps Porzingis.

For the first time, players will be selected on to teams captained by LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the top vote-getters in the East and West, respectively. Instead of the conferences battling for bragging rights and a paycheck twice as large — $50,000 for the winners — players from both conferences will be mixed together to hopefully enhance the game. But ultimately it will depend on whether any defense is played.

From the moment Oladipo arrived, Pacers officials believed in him. He never felt that in Orlando or Oklahoma City. But he learned a lot from those experiences and chalked those up as teaching points, especially playing alongside Russell Westbrook for his MVP season.

This is Oladipo’s team now. He’s on the first year of a four-year deal he signed with the Thunder last fall. And he says this is just the beginning. Humble at heart, Oladipo appreciates this honor and the recognition. Believe that.

But he got to where he’s at by not settling or being content.

“I’m just trying to be the best,” Oladipo said. “So whatever defines that, that’s what I’m trying to do. That’s my goal, to be the best. Whatever defines that, whoever number one is, that’s who I’m chasing.”

[Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

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