Victor Oladipo finally made his season debut for the Miami Heat on Monday after sitting on the shelf for nearly a full year. The 29-year-old returned after an 11-month layoff rehabbing a quad injury that prevented him from playing the role Miami expected him to when they traded for him around this time last year.
That all changed on Monday, though, as Oladipo finally got his first taste of action for the Heat this season. The former two-time All-Star was on a strict 15-minute playing time limit but it did not stop him from making a major impact on the contest.
As soon as Oladipo checked in, he was welcomed with warm cheers by the adoring home crowd. Dipo scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, to go along with one rebound, four assists, and two triples. The feisty 6-foot-4 guard also exhibited his trademark defense as he drew two charges in his brief time on the court in the 123-106 Heat win over the Rockets.
After the game, Oladipo admitted that his season debut was just as good as he had dreamt it up to be:
“The moment was everything I wanted and more,” Oladipo said via Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald.
Hard work definitely pays off and it’s just great to see Oladipo back on the hardwood again. The sample size is undeniably small, but based on what we’ve seen from him in his first game back, this guy definitely has the makings of being an impact player for Miami the rest of the way.
For his part, however, coach Erik Spoelstra was quick to downplay Oladipo’s immediate impact on the Heat. The 51-year-old is keeping his expectations in check as he understands that this is going to be a long and hard process for Oladipo as he looks to regain full strength:
“We’ll build it from there,” Spoelstra said, “but it’s not going to happen overnight.
“I’m going to temper those expectations. This is an incredible moment. He’s been out a year. Three years of injuries. Fifteen minutes, that feel amazing to him and to everybody in the locker room. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves on anything else.”
Oladipo himself is well aware of the situation at hand. He’s been through a lot these past few years and he knows that now is not the time to get complacent. There’s still a lot of work ahead and he’s far from achieving his objective with the Heat:
“It’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows,” Oladipo said. “Just got to keep going. It’s about the story. It’s about being able to be resilient, to bounce back, to really know and understand that it’s never too late for me. That’s all I’m focused on.”
As for the time being, though, it’s only right that Oladipo basks in the glory of his triumphant return. He’s put in the work over the past year and he definitely deserves to reap the fruits of his labor. Right now, Dipo is just enjoying the moment.
“It was a great feeling,” Oladipo said. “Unbelievable. Words can’t really describe it. … It makes that moment even more special.
“There are truly better days ahead.”
The Heat are going to be very cautious with Oladipo and they likely won’t be increasing his minutes limit until he’s absolutely ready. The goal here is to avoid any setbacks while also preparing for his role as a regular part of the rotation come playoff time.