While it sometimes felt this day would never come, the highly-anticipated return of Miami Heat star Victor Oladipo is finally here. After nearly a year away from the game following surgery on his right quadriceps, the two-time All-Star will make his 2022 NBA season debut against his former team, the Houston Rockets, on Monday, March 7.
Prior to tipoff at 7:30 p.m., Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra discussed how he’s planning to reintegrate Oladipo into the lineup. “Tonight and for the foreseeable future this is about getting his feet wet and slowly acclimated to the group,” Spoelstra said.
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Oladipo will be on a strict time limit, with a max playing time of about 15 minutes. “We’re going to be very mindful, that this is a great step coming off of surgery and all the work he’s done behind the scenes,” Spoelstra said.
For those hoping to see an explosive performance from Oladipo against the Rockets on Monday night, Spoelstra said that it’s best to temper those expectations. “It’s not going to happen overnight. This is more about just celebrating that he’s healthy and back on the basketball court in a game.”
‘This is Probably the Best He’s Felt Since Before 3 Years Ago,’ Spoelstra Said
While Spoelstra said it’s “unrealistic” to think Oladipo is going to be playing 30 minutes on Monday, Coach Spo did say that the 29-year-old guard is in the best shape of his life.
“This is probably the best he’s felt since before 3 years ago,” Spoelstra said. “He’s had an incredible fortitude to be able to battle and fight and improve to get healthy. Everybody has said he’s in a much better place physically than when he was last year when he first arrived.”
Oladipo’s Teammates are Pumped For Oladipo’s Return
Oladipo’s return adds an X-factor to a team that’s already firmly in first place in the Eastern Conference. The Heat head into Monday’s game with a 43-22 record.
“I’m mean, you’re bringing an All-Star back,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said. “And in my opinion, once he gets his groove back, he could be that version of Oladipo he was when he was in Indiana.”
As a member of the Pacers, between 2017 and 2018, Oladipo was voted to the All-Star game, All-NBA Third Team, All-Defensive First Team, and earned the title of NBA Most Improved Player Award.
“I feel like people forget Oladipo because he’s been hurt that long,” Adebayo continued. “So we get that version of Victor back, him being in this culture with his hard-working work ethic and getting your body to be the best of his ability, I feel like you’re adding that to like a high-caliber team.”
If Oladipo crushes upon his return, that will mean a subtraction of minutes from the team’s reserve players. However, only time will tell how and where he fits in with the Heat’s lineup.