INDIANAPOLIS – The Mavericks have stayed afloat this season in the short stretches that they have had to play without All-Star point guard Luka Doncic.
Imagine having to play without him for an entire season.
That was reality for the Indiana Pacers, being without Victor Oladipo for the equivalent of a full NBA season.
The Indiana guard missed exactly 82 games (35 at the end of last season and the first 47 this season) after rupturing a quad muscle. And yet, the Pacers made the playoffs last season and are fifth in the Eastern Conference standings this year.
Before Oladipo’s injury, he was averaging 21.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game in his two All-Star seasons.
“Every team goes through a little of this, but being without a star for 82 straight games, that’s tough,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And they still got to the playoffs last year and they’re right in the middle of it again. (Pacers coach) Nate McMillan does great work every year.”
Oladipo returned last week and Monday against the Mavericks was just his third game back. He has started very slowly (he was 4-of-22 shooting before Monday). But that was not unexpected, McMillan said.
“We have a plan for bringing him back,” McMillan said. “We have to be patient. He has to play himself into a rhythm. He’s been off for a year. And getting off to a start like this is no surprise to us or him.”
McMillan said Oladipo is limited to less than 24 minutes off the bench until the All-Star break, then his role will be re-evaluated.
Carlisle said that teams generally are better-equipped these days to handle short-term injuries like Doncic’s ankle sprain. But the longer you have to hold the fort, the tougher things get.
“I don’t know that we have not skipped a beat (without Doncic),” Carlisle said. “But if you have depth and have guys who are capable to step into enhanced roles, and you got a group that understands the importance of basic execution, which is taking care of the ball and rebounding, then you got a chance.
“We got a deep roster. And most of the league does have deep rosters. You got to play hard and find a way to get through it.”
Injury update: The Mavericks were without Seth Curry against the Pacers. The shooting guard stayed behind in Dallas with tightness in his left knee.
Carlisle said he had not gotten an update from the training staff in Dallas on Monday, which he considered a positive.
“The fact that I haven’t heard, I feel, is good news,” he said. “But we’ll watch it carefully. Like with all our guys, we got to make sure they’re 100 percent right before going back into the fray. The hope is that this is a short-term thing, but I haven’t talked to them yet.”
Carlisle said Curry had mentioned that the tightness first started bothering him “a few weeks ago.”
Meanwhile, J.J. Barea left Monday’s game in the second quarter with a left ankle sprain and did not return.
With Curry and Luka Doncic in Dallas, that meant the true point-guard rotation was down to Jalen Brunson and Delon Wright.