After the Miami Heat announced that they were sending Victor Oladipo to work out with their G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls SkyForce, it seemed like a huge signal that the two-time All-Star’s return was imminent.
However, Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra was quick to shoot those hopes back down. “There is no imminent date or announcement,” Spoelstra said of Oladipo’s season debut, per Sun-Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman. “It’s really just part of the process of getting to some five-on-five, live competition.”
That was before the All-Star break. On February 25, less than an hour before Miami’s second-half opener against the New York Knicks, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted out the long-awaited news Heat Nation has been waiting for — a return timetable for Oladipo.
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“Oladipo, ramping up after offseason quad tendon surgery, joined the Heat on their current six-game road trip and could be ready to play as soon as the second week of March, sources said,” ESPN reported.
A March return date won’t come as a huge surprise for those closely following Oladipo’s rehab journey, as that date “has been a target since the rehab process amped up with the time in Sioux Falls,” Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman tweeted on Friday.
In response to ESPN’s report, Miami Herald’s Anothny Chiang tweeted, “March has been the target for a Victor Oladipo return since before the season, and Oladipo has been doing more and more behind the scenes in recent weeks.”
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, only appeared in four games before going down with a non-contact injury on April 8.
The two-time All-Star underwent surgery on his right quadriceps tendon in May and re-signed with the Heat on a veteran’s minimum contract in August. He has yet to play during the 2022 NBA season.
Heat Owns Oladipo’s Bird Rights
Re-signing Oladipo was always a low-risk gamble for the Heat. If Oladipo looks like a shell of his former self upon his return, the Heat can waive him at the end of the season. However, if the guard hits the court and proves to be the All-Star contributor Miami wanted when they traded for him last season, it’s a huge win.
In 2017-18, he was the league’s Most Improved Player honoree, an All-Defensive team selection, as well as an All-NBA pick. Over 454 career games, Oladipo has averaged 17.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.6 steals per contest.
Not only will the return of a healthy Oladipo bolster the Heat’s offense, but because Miami owns his Bird Rights, they don’t have to worry about not being able to afford him after he becomes a free agent this offseason.
Miami Herald‘s Anthony Chiang reported on February 16, “Oladipo signed a one-year minimum deal worth about $2.4 million to return to the Heat as a free agent this past offseason. If Oladipo impresses when he returns, Miami holds his Bird rights and can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him up to his maximum salary when he becomes a free agent this upcoming offseason.”
Oladipo Made It Clear He Wants to Stay in Miami Long Term
In September, Oladipo, 29, who had already bought a home on Hibiscus Drive, made it clear that he wanted to stay in Miami long term.
“I wasn’t given the opportunity to be my best self here,” Oladipo told Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson in September. “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.”