Heat’s Oladipo acknowledges ‘one leg is stronger than the other’ as he continues to work his way back from injury

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Khobi Price, South Florida Sun Sentinel
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Victor Oladipo knows he hasn’t been the best version of himself on offense, and while he’s expecting that to change, he understands he’ll have to continue to stay patient to get back to his old form.

Oladipo’s scoring volume isn’t where his offensive concerns stem from, but more so how efficiently he’ll score those points.

While he’s averaged seven points in his first two games with the Miami Heat since arriving in South Florida via trade, the veteran combo guard out of Indiana is averaging 17.5 points for his career, averaged 20 points with the Indiana Pacers (nine games) and 21.2 points with the Houston Rockets (20 games) earlier this season, and is averaging 19.9 points on the year.

Since scoring a career-high 23.1 points per game on a career-best 47.7 field goal percentage during his breakout season with the Pacers in 2017-18, Oladipo — who has a career 43.8 percent shooting percentage — hasn’t shot over 43 percent in any of the following three seasons.

He’s shot 23.8 percent from the field (5 of 21 shooting) in his two games with the Heat, and is shooting 40.4 percent on the year.

“At the end of the day, I’m not one to make excuses. But if you really look at it, I had a lower-extremity injury, so I wasn’t able to use my lower extremities for a long period of time,” Oladipo said of the ruptured quad tendon in his right knee that he sustained on Jan. 23, 2019.

He sustained another injury in his right knee earlier that season that forced him to miss 11 games, with Oladipo scoring 21.4 points on 44 percent shooting in 16 games before the initial knee injury and then averaging 16.6 points on 40.7 percent shooting in the 20 games after his return before he ruptured his quad.

“Also, one leg is stronger than the other,” Oladipo added. “Working my way back and finding my balance is something I’m still continuing to work at.”

Making Oladipo’s rehab process from the injury more difficult has been the abnormal NBA schedule over the past 13 months.

Oladipo returned to the floor for the Pacers on Jan. 29, 2020, after missing the final 34 games of the 2018-19 season and the first 47 games of the 2019-20 season due to the ruptured quad injury. He played 13 games — averaging 13.5 points on 39.4 percent shooting — before the season was suspended six weeks after his return due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After initially said he wasn’t going to play when the season resumed in the league’s quarantined “bubble” in July at Disney World to continue working on his rehab, Oladipo suited up for 10 total games for the Pacers before they fell to the Heat in the playoffs’ first round.

He’s suited up in 50 regular-season games over the past 1 1/2 seasons and hasn’t played in both games on consecutive days since sustaining the quad injury, with the Heat scheduled to play five more sets of back-to-backs during the regular season.

“I haven’t played a lot of basketball in two years,” he said. “I came back and played in the bubble for eight games and then four playoff games, and then the season started right away because of COVID. It wasn’t an extensive period of time to get the rehab I needed. It is what it is, but I’m not really concerned about it.

“I could sit here and give you a long story about my rehab and my journey, but I’m here now. I am ready to work. I just have to keep working. Everything else will have [to come] into place. I am continuously getting stronger, getting more comfortable and really that is all that matters.”

And he remains confident he’ll find his consistency as his situation remains the same.

“The offensive end will come,” he said. “I’ve been in three different environments in less than a year, so adjusting to that is different as well, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I’m just enjoying the moment and staying in the moment. I’m glad to be here. Eventually, everything that needs to be will be.”

After taking Sunday off following their 115-101 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, the Heat will practice on Monday — which will be Oladipo’s first full training session since joining the team 1 1/2 weeks ago — ahead of Tuesday’s game versus the Memphis Grizzlies.

“It’s a new experience and new environment,” Oladipo said. “No practice time, no time to really get used to the system or the guys but I’m just going out there and competing the best I can.”

And with more time with his new teammates and games with his under his belt, Oladipo expects things to turn around offensively.

“At the end of the day, I just have to keep playing,” he said. “Everything else will take care of itself. The flow will come. The timing and everything will come. I just have to keep playing hard.”