Heat’s Victor Oladipo says injured knee feels ‘great,’ updates his playing status

Al Diaz/adiaz@miamiherald.com

Heat guard Victor Oladipo isn’t inclined to offer a timetable for precisely when he will make his season debut after yet another injury to one of his knees.

He won’t play when the Heat concludes a four-game road trip Monday against the Grizzlies in Memphis (8 p.m., Bally Sports Sun).

But he’s optimistic that he’s getting closer to a return.

“Hopefully soon,” he said Friday in Boston of a targeted date for his return from a left knee injury that has sidelined him since late in preseason.

“I feel good, been moving a lot more. Just going to make sure it’s the right thing, the right decision collectively. I’m not going to make a decision by myself. Just going to make sure everything feels good and I can perform at the highest level.”

Oladipo has resumed practicing with the Heat, but not in full-contact sessions. Does he believe he can play in a regular-season game within a week or two?

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll see. It’s more of a day to day thing, how I feel and what we feel makes the best sense. I trust our training staff and the people I work with as well, coming up with a solid plan and make sure I’m ready to go.”

What’s encouraging is that the knee has responded well to strenuous workouts - both on court and off - in recent days.

“I feel great,” he said of the knee. “I feel good. I feel a lot better. Looking forward to getting out there and helping the team.”

Oladipo played briefly late in preseason but then was shelved, just before the season started, with tendinosis in his non surgically repaired left knee.

Tendinosis is described by medical journals as a degeneration of the tendon’s collagen in response to chronic overuse. Even tiny movements can cause tendinosis, when done repeatedly.

But Oladipo said doctors have indicated that his condition likely won’t be chronic.

“No, no, no,” he said. “I can move past it.”

The discomfort in the left knee appeared suddenly during preseason.

“I think it was me going hard like I do,” he said. “Things like this happen when you ramp things up and go hard. It’s just part of the game. Luckily for me it was nothing major. I’m blessed. I’ve been able to still get better, still improve. We’ve been coming up with a great plan for my return to play. Look forward to getting out there and playing.”

Oladipo has had no recent issues with his right knee, which has twice been surgically repaired. Oladipo had lengthy recoveries after sustaining a ruptured quad tendon in January 2019 and then needed a second surgery in May 2021.

He didn’t make his debut last season until March 7, then contributed to the Heat’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Despite continued setbacks, Oladipo says he’s in good spirits, as his infectious smile suggested during a pre-game conversation in Boston on Friday.

“I embrace setbacks because at the end of the day, it makes you who you are,” he said. “It makes you stronger. The year was tough obviously to deal with. But it’s nothing major. You have to look at the big picture sometimes, most of the time. I know my big blessing is around the corner. You have to stay optimistic and keep moving forward.”

In a season when scoring is up around the league, Oladipo knows his defense can make a difference. He had 10 steals in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.

“Yeah, I think I can help,” he said. “Looking forward to helping.”

Last season, after returning in March after a second knee procedure, Oladipo was available for 35 games (including postseason) and appeared in 23. But he appeared in the Heat’s final 15 playoff games. He averaged 23 minutes per game in the Eastern finals, appearing in all seven games of that series against Boston.

Oladipo has started 395 of 462 regular-season games but only five of 12 for the Heat. A bench role seems highly likely when he returns, with Tyler Herro now entrenched with the Heat starting group.

One of Oladipo’s offseason goals was getting his offense back to the level of his defense after the two major knee procedures. He worked all summer toward that end, before the latest injury sidelined him.

Oladipo was a defensive menace at times in the playoffs, and had offensive outbursts of 21, 40, 23 and 23 points in his 23 combined regular-season and playoff games for the Heat last season.

But his efficiency can improve. In six playoff games against Philadelphia, he shot 20 of 48 from the field (41.7 percent) and 6 for 22 on threes (27.3). In seven playoff games against Boston, he shot 19 of 62 (30.6) and 8 for 29 on threes (27.6).

He shot 47.7 percent overall and 37.1 percent on threes during his 2017-18 All-Star year for Indiana, when he averaged a career high 23.1 points. But that was something of an outlier as far as field-goal percentage goes. For his full career, he has shot 43.8 overall and 34.8 on threes.

Oladipo, who originally agreed to a one-year $11 million contract with Miami, agreed to change it to a two-year, $18 million deal in July.

By doing so, the Heat avoided climbing over the luxury-tax threshold, a decision that could be worth more than $15 million to the franchise. He will earn $8.8 million this season, with a $9.5 million player option for next season. Oladipo can veto any trade this season and cannot be traded under any circumstances until Jan. 15.

HEADING TO G LEAGUE

The Heat sent forwards Nikola Jovic and Jamal Cain, and guard Dru Smith to work with its G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, following Friday’s win in Boston.

The Skyforce hosts the Wisconsin Herd on Sunday, which gives Jovic, Cain and Smith an opportunity for game action in the G League.

Jovic and Smith are expected to return to the Heat in time for Monday’s game against the Grizzlies in Memphis, but they were both listed as out for the contest. Cain will remain with the Skyforce for longer and is also listed as out for Monday’s game.

REST OF INJURY REPORT

Along with ruling out Cain, Jovic, Oladipo and Smith, the Heat also will be without Omer Yurtseven (left ankle surgery) on Monday against the Grizzlies.

Jimmy Butler (right knee soreness), Dewayne Dedmon (left foot plantar fasciitis) and Gabe Vincent (left knee effusion) are listed as questionable.

Herro (left ankle sprain), Haywood Highsmith (right ankle sprain), Duncan Robinson (left ankle sprain) and Max Strus (right shoulder impingement) are probable to play.