The Indiana Pacers have a chance to finish with 49 wins tomorrow night. It’s hard to find any outlet that predicted they win more than 35 games and no one was picking them to make the playoffs let alone finish the regular season as a top-5 seed.
It’s no coincidence that the best ways to describe the season and the team are all with positive adjectives:
The positivity shines through from the Pacers leader and All Star Victor Oladipo and it’s affected the entire team.
“He’s one of the most positive teammates I’ve ever had,” Thaddeus Young recently said. “I think a lot of the stuff we’re able to do this year is from his positivity.”
That includes the constant comebacks from large deficits throughout the season, the Pacers lead the league in comeback victories when trailing by 20+ points (3) and by 15+ points (8) per this video from Indy Cornrows and SB Nation.
All these comebacks seem to always have a Oladipo being positive in the midst of being down big in a timeout huddle moment. The Pacers resiliency is tied to how positive their leader always seems to be.
“He’s always himself every day. He’s very positive all the time,” said Myles Turner. “When he’s struggling, when things aren’t going his way, he’s still getting other guys involved, still talking, still hyping everyone else up. You miss a shot he’ll just pat you on the butt and say ‘keep shooting.’ Stuff like that goes a long way. It’s just his mindset towards everything.”
Oladipo has been a superstar on the court, destined to win the Most Improved Player award this season with career highs in just about every statistical category. His defensive ability to create havoc and force turnovers is huge for the Pacers ability to get easy transition points. His speed on offense allows him to make straight-line drives against even the best defenders in the league while his improved jump shot has him scoring at more efficient levels than ever before in his career.
“He’s right now one of the best two-way players in the league,” Bojan Bogdanovic said. “His steals and pressuring on the defense pushes us to be a little closer to our guys and play better defense.”
Oladipo wasn’t voted a captain at the start of the season with the honor going instead to Young and Turner, but it’d be shocking if that doesn’t change next year. The whole team sees how his positivity and energy make a huge impact on the whole locker room.
“Vic is amazing,” Lance Stephenson said according to Pacers.com’s Mark Montieth. “He brings it every night. I haven’t seen any down time for him during the season … I’ve never seen him tired, never seen him down, nothing. It travels through the whole team. Even if I’m having a bad day, I see him and I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ I can get it going.”
“He has the most energy of anybody I’ve ever seen,” Young said. “I’ve not seen him have one bad day. Maybe one bad day, but that’s it.”
As the Pacers approach the playoffs, they’re likely to be doubted again whether it’s against LeBron James and the Cavaliers or the young upstart 76ers, but the Pacers have been surprising people all season. They’re used to that underdog role.
“I don’t think we can really control whether people respect us or not,” said Oladipo about whether earning respect is a motivation for the team. “We just play and you judge us off that. I don’t think we use that as motivation … We want to win and win at a high level so that’s what motivates us every day.”
No surprise that Oladipo is confident and positive about the Pacers chances for the ultimate success in the postseason.