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Victor Oladipo and the Pacers are proving everyone wrong

Victor Oladipo and the Pacers are proving everyone wrong
From ESPN - February 14, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Victor Oladipo woke up from an evening nap on Jan. 23, his childhood dream finally became a reality. Indiana Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard called Oladipo with the news that he had been selected to the All-Star team for the first time in his five-year NBA career. Oladipo could not wait to tell his mother.

But Joan Oladipo, whom he describes as his biggest supporter, had something more important going on at that moment.

She was in church.

"She told me she'd call me back," Oladipo said. "I kept trying to tell her and she finally whispered in one of those mom tones, 'I will call you back when I get out of church.'"

His moment with his mom would have to wait. But, make no mistake, Oladipo's short time with the Pacers has been a revelation. The fifth-year guard has been a star on both ends -- ranking 11th in the league in scoring (24.4 PPG) and third in steals (2.1 SPG) -- while leading Indiana to a surprising sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

In his mind, he's just getting started, too.

"Making my first All-Star team is something I will never forget," Oladipo said. "It's also one of those days where you reflect and then you realize you want more."

After Lance Stephenson found out about the trade that sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City for Oladipo and center Domantas Sabonis last summer, his reaction was similar to most people's around the league: What the hell are we doing? We are giving up one of the best players in the NBA.

The trade was viewed as a desperation move by Pritchard. George's agent had notified the organization that its star forward did not plan to re-sign with the team when he became a free agent in 2018. So Pritchard had to find a way to get something in return before George left for nothing.

The Pacers, according to Pritchard, had several trade options, but owner Herb Simon did not want to risk acquiring draft picks and basically tank this season away.

"We had a list of a few things that we wanted," Pritchard told ESPN. "We wanted talent, a great working attitude and an unselfish attitude. We wanted to create a positive atmosphere around here."

Enter Oladipo, 25, who spent the first three years of his career in Orlando and was coming off a solid season in Oklahoma City, where he averaged 15.9 PPG alongside 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook.

The trade took Oladipo by surprise. He learned of it during a layover in Atlanta while en route to Florida for a summer workout. Numerous tweets and text messages informed him that he was heading to his third team in just four years in the NBA.

"I was not warned, nobody told me," Oladipo said. "It was shock, but it happened and I had to adjust and I had to get over the fact it happened. I was excited after letting it all soak in, excited to be able to come back here and play."

"After what we went through with somebody who did not want to be here, to have someone who really wants to be here is so rewarding and refreshing."

Pacers owner Herb Simon

Oladipo has embraced playing in the state he starred in while at Indiana University. He likes to point to the ground and remind the fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse that, "This is my city," after making an electrifying play. It's a refreshing feeling for an organization that has been searching for somebody to be the face of the franchise the way Reggie Miller was until he retired in 2005. That title was short-lived for Jermaine O'Neal, Danny Granger and George.

"After what we went through with somebody who did not want to be here, to have someone who really wants to be here is so rewarding and refreshing," Simon told ESPN. "His whole spirit brought life into the whole team and the whole organization. So we love that."

When Oladipo arrived, he brought his work ethic and confidence to practices, games and the locker room. Those were things the Pacers were often missing last season. According to those around the team last season, excuses flew around quicker than passes on the court and younger players were too timid to speak up in the locker room because they did not know what the reaction would be if they said anything.

One of the strongest attributes Oladipo has shown in Indiana, according to members of the organization, is that he holds himself accountable for his actions.

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