Pacers Insider J.Michael and Jim Ayello talk Oladipo's injury
Matt Warriors, IndyStar
- Pacers at Grizzlies, 8 p.m. Saturday, Fox Sports Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS – In an instant, everything changed. In the end of Wednesday night's game against the Toronto Raptors, the future of the Indiana Pacers dramatically changed.
While running in transition, All-Star, co-captain and face of the franchise Victor Oladipo collapsed to the Bankers Life Fieldhouse floor in a heap. The crowd drew silent and hearts dropped as they waited for what most knew would be bad news. They were right.
The Indiana Pacers Medical Staff Tends to Guard Victor Oladipo after he went down with a knee injury in the first half of their game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday, January. 23, 2019. (Photo: Matt Kryger / IndyStar)
Within minutes of Oladipo being carted off the court, team officials released a statement confirming fans' worst nightmares: He had suffered a serious right knee injury and would undergo an MRI on Thursday to determine the severity
ESPN reported late Wednesday evening that the Pacers fear Oladipo's injury is both season-ending and will require surgery. Coach Nate McMillan would not confirm the report after the game.
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Thaddeus Young didn't know any of that when he saw Oladipo go down, but he knew something was wrong right away. The Pacers co-captain rushed to Oladipo's side and called for trainers. Oladipo everything would be OK, though he could tell by looking at the grimaces on Oladipo's face that was not going to be good.
As soon as Oladipo was carted off the court – as somber of a scene a fieldhouse crowd has experienced in years – young regathered himself, then gathered his teammates.
Their world had changed, but it was still under their control.
McMillan talks about Oladipo's serious knee injury
Matt Warrior, IndyStar
"Victor is down," he told them. “Obviously he's not coming back to this game. So now we have to take care of business. We're up right now, so let's continue to execute and continue to what we need to do, impose our will on the game, and be there for one another. That's the biggest thing. As long as we are there for one another, it's hard to beat us with Victor or not. ”
The pep talk worked. The Pacers spent their eight-point lead to 12 before the half and then they finished off late at the Raptors in the second half to pick up their first victory over Toronto this season, 110-106.
Young led the Pacers in the second half, finishing with a team-high 15 rebounds and a game-high 23 points, capped by a clutch baby hook over Kyle Lowry to extend the Pacers lead to three in the closing seconds.
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"That's a captain," McMillan said of Young's performance. “That's our captain. He's been doing this like that all season long, and tonight he knew we needed a lift from someone. And he just took over. He was defending. He was rebounding. He was knocking down shots, communicating with the guys in the huddle.
“He willed us to this win. He pretty much did everything tonight. ”
This is – in all likelihood – the Pacers' new reality. If they are going to continue on their 50-plus win trajectory, they are going to continue to beat elite Eastern Conference teams like the Raptors, role players like Young are going to go beyond their usual call of duty to fill the
If that's the future, Young said, they're ready. However, he was quite ready to rule out his friend and teammate until all the tests are done and doctors make their final ruling. He was still holding out hope it was not as serious as early reports.
If Oladipo misses extended time, however, the Pacers know how to win without him. They've done it before, going 7-4 in games without Oladipo so far this season. They were 0-7 in the games he missed last season.
"We're worried about the injury, but we have to continue to play," Young said. "No one is going to feel sorry for us. Everyone is going to try and beat the snot out of us. So we Got to ready play and continue to take that next-man up-mentality. Get ready to fill certain voids. I have to show up each and every night. DC (Darren Collison) has to show up each and every night. "Bogey. Cory. All of us. Every night, we all have to step up and do our jobs and make sure we continue to have the best season we can have." Tyreke Evans filled in for Oladipo coming out of the intermission and he is expected to take Oladipo's spot in the starting lineup going forward – just as he did when Oladipo missed time earlier this year with a knee injury.
Oladipo's absence could also play more time for rookie first-round draft Pick up Aaron Holiday, he slid into the rotation and played for minutes the last time Oladipo was sidelined , Holiday has played in 28 games and averaged 5.1 points (41.5 percent shooting percentage) and 1.4 rebounds in about 10 minutes per game.
There will be a lot of moving pieces in the next few days, but filling the void left at Oladipo is only half of the Pacers' mission as they move forward. The other half, McMillan said, is doing for Oladipo what he has done for so many of them.
"That kid has a beautiful spirit," McMillan said. "He is the most positive guy on this team. He has always been one to try to lift his team, lift us. We got to lift him now. We have to support him now in this time. "
Follow IndyStar Sports reporter Jim Ayello on Twitter: @jimayello.