When All-Star Victor Oladipo suffered a season-ending knee injury, most people expected the Indiana Pacers to fall to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
At the time the Pacers were the third-best team in the East and predicted to drop significantly.
Yet a few months later, the Pacers are still sitting at third on the Eastern Conference ladder.
That’s right, the Pacers lost their only All-Star and have remained in the exact same position in the East.
This amazing feat was made possible by a combination of two things, both rare in the modern NBA: effort and discipline.
Rather than trying to replace Oladipo, who led the team in usage, the Pacers lineup understood that each player must adjust their role.
They crafted a team philosophy that concentrated on making the right play over the highlight reel finish.
The Pacers learned a lesson that few teams ever accept: the greatest teams are the ones that adapt and overcome situations.
“It is about adapting,” coach Nate McMillan told Sports Insider.
“Foul trouble. Injury. Team getting hot. Your lineup not playing well.
Rotating different guys in and out. So you are constantly adapting throughout a game.”
The playing group, one of the tight-knit units in the league, are happy to make whatever adaptations are necessary to win.
Take, for example, the Pacers’ makeshift replacements for Oladipo.
Wesley Matthews, Tyreke Evans, Edmond Sumner and Aaron Holiday all currently share point guard duties.
Plays and sets that used to go to Oladipo are now shared between Matthews or Evans or Holiday, each of which has different talents and skillsets.
Add to that Thaddeus Young’s leadership and two-way ability, Miles Turner’s rim protection and Bojan Bogdanovic averaging almost 22 points per game.
Each and every Pacers player has been integral to the team’s triumph over adversity.
It shows maturity, toughness and a will-to-win among the playing group that is not often seen in today’s NBA.
This mindset wasn’t a result of Oladipo’s injury, it was a sign of the impact that his arrival had on the franchise from day one.
“He came in here and he completely changed the organisation,” Pritchard said.
“His mentality and his approach set the tone.”
Whether he is on the court or watching from a rehab room there’s no mistaking that this Pacers team is Victor Oladipo’s.
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