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Heat’s Victor Oladipo staying patient for NBA playoff moment


Victor Oladipo is staying in the moment with the hope that his playoff moment will soon come.

The former All-Star guard did not play in the first three games of the Miami Heat’s first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, but starting point guard Kyle Lowry’s strained left hamstring could potentially create room for Oladipo in the Heat’s rotation.

“I’m just staying ready,” Oladipo, 29, said ahead of Sunday’s Game 4 against the 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.”

The last time Oladipo played in a game for the Heat, he totaled 40 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field and 5-of-11 shooting on threes, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals in the regular-season finale against the Orlando Magic on April 10 at Amway Center. It marked just the third time that Oladipo scored 40 or more points in a game during his NBA career, as the Heat used him in a bigger role than usual with Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Lowry and others held out of the regular-season finale.

A week before his season-best performance in Orlando on April 10, Oladipo finished with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, three rebounds, four assists, two steals and tied a career-high with six made threes in the Heat’s April 3 road win over the Toronto Raptors.

“I stay in the moment,” Oladipo said. “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.”

But Oladipo has been out of the Heat’s rotation for weeks. He only appeared in eight regular-season games after making his season debut on March 7 following an 11-month recovery from surgery to repair the quadriceps tendon in his right knee.

Before three DNP-CDs (did not play, coach’s decision) to begin the playoffs, Oladipo did not play in five of the Heat’s final seven regular-season games despite being available. The Heat has opted to emphasize offensive spacing around Adebayo and Butler by playing its best outside shooters ahead of Oladipo.

“It’s always tough,” Oladipo said of not playing. “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.”

Oladipo did not play in the Heat’s Game 3 loss to the Hawks in Atlanta on Friday, but he played in a competitive two-on-two game with forward Haywood Highsmith and two-way contract guards Mychal Mulder and Javonte Smart two hours before tipoff in an effort to remain sharp.

“I mean, anytime I get an opportunity to play basketball it’s beneficial for me,” Oladipo 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.”

Oladipo is right, he has played in only eight games in the last year because of knee surgery. He has played in just 64 games, including the regular season and playoffs, since the start of the 2019-20 season after needing two surgeries on the quadriceps tendon in his right knee — initially undergoing a procedure in January 2019 before returning a year later in 2020 and then going through the same surgery a second time in May 2021 with the Heat.

“I just need to play,” Oladipo continued. “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 you 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 two-on-two, one-on-one, three-on-three, and try to stay as ready as I can.”

All with the hope of getting more real game reps down the road.

“It doesn’t help with just this experience. It helps in life in general,” Oladipo said of the patience he learned during his recovery from knee surgery. “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.”

INJURY REPORT

Along with labeling Lowry as questionable, the Heat also listed Adebayo (left quad contusion), P.J. Tucker (right calf strain) and Caleb Martin (left ankle sprain) as questionable for Game 4. Gabe Vincent is probable to play with a right big toe contusion.

On the other side, the Hawks upgraded starting center Clint Capela (right knee hyperextension) to questionable for Game 4. Capela missed the first three games of the series.

The Hawks remain without Lou Williams because of a back injury.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.





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