It has been a moment of unease since Victor Oladipo made his March 7 return from May quadriceps surgery.
The former All-Star is asked if he is ready if called upon. Oladipo stresses that he is ready when called upon. And then he isn’t called upon.
With Kyle Lowry dealing with a hamstring strain, another of those Miami Heat moments has arrived for Oladipo.
So, for his part, Oladipo has accentuated his preparedness.
“I’m just staying ready,” Oladipo said ahead of Sunday night’s Game 4 of the Heat’s best-of-seven first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena. “I can’t really control what happens out there, what goes on. I just got to stay ready. If my number is called, I’m going to go out there and play the game to the best of my ability.”
For the most part, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has opted for the understated consistency of Gabe Vincent when backcourt relief is needed, largely making it a waiting game for Oladipo.
“I just need to play,” Oladipo said of the state of his comeback. “I just need to play. I think only the guys who have been in my shoes, who have experienced what I’ve experienced, really understand when you sit down for however long you sit down for and try to get back in the flow of things and ramp things up, you just need repetition, you just need to play.
“So, I just got to play. That’s it. That’s what I’m focused on doing, is trying to get as much reps as I can — whether it’s 2-on-2, 1-on-1, 3-on-3 — and try to stay as ready as I can.”
Recently, having been shuffled out of the rotation ahead of the playoffs, much of that action is coming 2-on-2, either pregame or after practices or shootarounds.
“I mean, anytime I get an opportunity to play basketball, it’s beneficial for me,” he said. “I’ve only played, I don’t even know if that’s a handful of basketball in the last year or so. What have I played? Eight games? I don’t know. But anytime I can get out here and compete, it’s beneficial for me.”
Not of as much benefit was a 40-point performance on the final night of the regular season, in a road loss to the Orlando Magic. That only led to a role as spectator for the first week of the series against the Hawks.
“I was just playing the game. I was just playing the game. I stay in the moment,” he said when asked if he thought that performance could have provided a playoff runway. “I don’t look too far ahead, and I don’t look back. I just stay in the moment. That’s what I was doing in Orlando.
“I didn’t have no expectations after that. But if my number is called, I’m going to go out there and play my game to the best of my ability.”
A combo guard, Oladipo said there is plenty of comfort to step in at point guard, particularly amid a Lowry absence.
“I’m just me, man,” he said. “I’m going to go out there and be me. Whatever that looks like, whatever needs to be done from me to help the team win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Sitting during the regular season is one thing. Sitting during the playoffs means missing the most meaningful games.
“It’s always tough,” he said of the waiting game. “Playoffs, regular season, it’s tough. I want to be out there competing, helping the team win.
“But at the end of the day, I’m just focused on what I can control. And whatever the coaching staff needs me to do to help us win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
All while trying to get closer to 100 percent, with free agency awaiting on July 1.
“It’s a process, obviously,” he said. “I’m still getting better, still getting stronger. But I’m making good strides. I just got to keep improving.”
While accepting the need for patience.
“I mean, it doesn’t help with just this experience,” he said. “It helps in life, in general. Good things come to those who wait. So you got to be patient and realize you got to trust the process. And that’s what I’m doing.”