The Miami Heat‘s head coach Erik Spoelstra has not commented on the prodigal return of star Victor Oladipo in months, so when news broke that the two-time All-Star was joining the team for their current road trip, it appeared good news was finally on the horizon.
While Oladipo won’t be playing when the Heat take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, December 13, he was spotted shooting around at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse during morning practice, another sign the 29-year-old’s return to action could be sooner than later.
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With so many players not on this road trip, they’re without Jimmy Butler (bruised tailbone), Bam Adebayo (thumb), Markieff Morris (neck), and Caleb Martin (protocol), Oladipo’s appearance caught more media attention than usual.
“It’s a big step,” Spoelstra said, as reported by Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman.
However, Coach Spo also made it clear that Oladipo’s return is not imminent. “It’s not about a step of when he’ll be back. It’s more about just the emotional and mental boost for him. And he’s been doing all this work behind the scenes, at the arena, while we’ve been on the road.
“And we’ve been on the road virtually the entire season. So he hasn’t been with us for a long part of it.” As it stands, it seems Oladipo’s return to action won’t happen until 2022.
Spoelstra Revealed the True Purpose of Why Oladipo Joined the Heat’s Road Trip
Even though Oladipo isn’t going to be cleared to play any time soon, Spoelstra explained that bringing him along with the team was meant to be a morale booster.
“He was so excited to come on this trip and continue his routine,” Spoelstra said. “But at least it gets him around the guys. You see how he is on the bench during home games. He loves it.
“I think it’s helping his morale and motivation. And that’s all it’s about. It’s not about a timetable to anything.”
Heat’s P.J. Tucker, who played alongside Oladipo with the Houston Rockets, is also pumped to have him traveling with the team.
“It’s good to see Vic on the road, man,” the veteran forward said, per Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang. “I haven’t seen Vic on the road since we were in Houston. So it’s good to see him out here, for sure.”
Oladipo Hasn’t Played Since Suffering a Season-Ending Injury on April 8
Oladipo first joined the Heat on March 25 in a trade deal that involved Miami sending Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and a 2022 draft pick to the Rockets in exchange for the Indiana alum.
However, Oladipo only appeared in four games with the Heat before suffering a season-ending injury on April 8. While his future in Miami appeared in limbo during the offseason, the Heat resigned him to a veteran’s minimum deal in August.
“I wasn’t given the opportunity to be my best self here,” Oladipo said of wanting to remain in Miami. “I don’t know what our team would have done with a healthy version of me because I wasn’t given that opportunity; I was dealt a bad hand. I feel there’s unfinished business here. I feel like I came here for a reason and there’s a purpose for me being here and I’m trying to find out what that is… I believe we can do something very special here for years to come and I want to be a part of it.”