Shooters Shoot: The Re-Integration of Victor Oladipo

The Indiana Pacers, after winning in spectacular fashion in Victor Oladipo‘s first game back with the team, have lost three in a row, including a listless disaster of a game against the Knicks, a garbage loss to a Mavs team that didn’t have Luka Doncic, and a FIRE NATE NOW DEAR GODS HOW DO YOU BLOW AN 8 POINT LEAD IN 83 SECONDS 119-118 disaster movie against the Toronto Raptors.

Through all of this, and including Oladipo’s 2-of-8 performance against Chicago that was redeemed in the final seconds of regulation, the Pacers’ two-time All-Star is just 13-of-53 (24.5 percent) from the field, 5-of-27 (18.5 percent) from three, and in his first three games back managed a minus-0.5 PER (!), a -.227 WS/48 (!!), and a -5.5 VORP/82 (!!!).

Yeah, it’s a small sample size, but a negative PER in even one game is a sign that someone has not exactly returned in anything resembling even preseason much less midseason form.

Not surprisingly, the Pacers are 1-3 since he’s been back and should, save for the one miracle that let us all remember why we’re tolerating this atrocity of a slump, be 0-4.

But a certain other legendary Pacers shooting guard, one Reggie Miller, once said the two words that lend title to this article and serve as reminder to Pacers fans that let’s face it, we were never going to be anything other than an easy first-round out because of our worthless-in-the-playoffs coach…

…anyway, I digress again (FIRE NATE!), but the point is, let’s be patient.

Oladipo has, in four games, shot 2-of-8, 2-of-14, 4-of-17, and 5-of-14.

Reggie, in an eight-game stretch in 1997, shot 4-of-13, 6-of-19, 6-of-12, 5-of-17, 3-of-15, 9-of-23, 4-of-12, and 5-of-13, good for an overall mark of 42 makes in 124 tries, or 33.9 percent.

And he didn’t even have the legitimate excuse of just having spent a year of his basketball life injured with a ruptured quadriceps tendon!

Granted, the Pacers went 4-4 in that 8-game stinkfest, so it’s a bit easier to forgive Reggie the transgression of playing like garbage when the rest of the team (which went 39-43, missed the playoffs, and ended up making a coaching change to Larry Bird that would lead them to a Finals appearance three years later) stepped up.

Consider the parallel. Oladipo’s shooting terribly, his team’s going to underachieve, and if there is any justice in this world, the coach will be fired over it, we’ll get a coach who’s as good as the late-90s version of Larry Bird, and in three years we’ll be in the Finals so LeBron James, in his farewell tour, can break our hearts one more time and connect Oladipo to Miller by Finals losses to the Lakers.

My point is that shooters shoot. And occasionally shooters shoot like such hot garbage that fans cringe when they put the ball up.

Because that 5-of-13 game that ended Reggie’s eight-game terrorist attack on efficient basketball?

He scored 22 points overall (3-of-6 from three and 9-of-10 from the line) and scored 20 or better in 11 straight games.

Shooters shoot, and when shooters can’t find their rhythm, the best thing for shooters to do in that case…is shoot.

Oladipo stunk out the joint against Chicago before he caught lightning in a bottle at the end. He stunk against Dallas. He stunk against the Knicks. And he stunk against the Raptors.

But he’s Victor Freaking Oladipo, a guy who has appeared in just one fewer All-Star Game than Reggie Miller had up to the 1996-97 season (yes, really; Reggie made it in 1990, again in ’95 and ’96, and only five times total in his career.)

So let’s not panic about the Pacers. Or if we do, let’s direct our panic in the direction it rightly belongs:

To the guy on the sideline who couldn’t beat a freaking college team defense in the last minute and a half of a game his team led by eight points and which earlier in the same game his team had led by as many as 19 in the third quarter.

Like Reggie’s ’97 Pacers saw Larry Brown fired, Oladipo’s ’20 Pacers need to fire Nate McMillan so we can be in the Finals in 2023.