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An update on Miami Heat guard Victor Oladipo as he considers options with injured knee

Barry Jackson
·5 min read

A six-pack of Miami Heat notes on a Monday:

The Heat and Victor Oladipo have not ruled out the injured guard playing again this season, but a final decision hasn’t been made and Oladipo continues to seek input on how to deal with right knee soreness stemming from an incident in last week’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, multiple league sources said over the past two days.

An MRI of Oladipo’s knee revealed no new structural damage such as a ruptured ACL or torn ligament, Five Reasons Sports Network reported Sunday night. An NBA source did not dispute that report but said additional medical opinions are being sought.

Whether the Heat calls it soreness or a sprain is semantics. The larger issue is whether Oladipo, in the next few weeks, feels comfortable playing on a knee that already has been surgically repaired following a significant 2019 injury.

That’s an issue both sides are discussing, as Oladipo —with the Heat’s blessing — continues to seek additional medical opinions on the best course of treatment. Both the Heat and Oladipo want to be cautious.

To be clear, this is more than a pain management issue. This is also a question about whether he risks further damage by playing on the knee before the soreness dissipates and whether he can be effective if he plays in the next few weeks.

Oladipo went a full year and six days between NBA regular-season appearances after sustaining a ruptured quad tendon in that right knee in January 2019. He returned in January 2020 but hasn’t played in back-to-back games. Six days before he injured his knee after a dunk against the Lakers, Oladipo explained the drop in his field-goal percentage since returning from the quad tendon rupture.

“I had a lower extremity injury, so I wasn’t able to use my lower extremity for a long period of time,” Oladipo said. “One leg is stronger than the other. I have some hypertrophy in one leg than the other. Working my way back and finding my balance is something I’m still continuing to work at.”

Oladipo made clear two days later that he wasn’t injured. But that changed when he fell awkwardly after his dunk against the Lakers last week.

The Heat and Oladipo hope he can return at some point before the regular season ends and be available for the playoffs. But that decision won’t be made until Oladipo gets additional medical input and sees how the knee responds to rest and treatment in the immediate future.

Complicating matters is the fact Oladipo is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, an issue that factors into any decision.

Though the Heat has been eager to see how Oladipo would fit in, it’s unclear if Miami would sacrifice significant cap space this summer on Oladipo if management doesn’t see him play in another game this season.

Miami owns his Bird Rights and could exceed the salary cap to re-sign him, but operating as an over-the-cap team to keep Oladipo would prevent the Heat from carving out as much as $28 million in cap space to pursue an outside free agent such as Kyle Lowry. The Heat could attempt to acquire Lowry or another free agent in a sign-and-trade even if it doesn’t have cap space.

The Heat has not commented on a timetable for Oladipo’s return largely because a timetable hasn’t been determined.

Last season, the Heat and Justise Winslow disagreed about whether he could play through a back injury; the Heat thought he could play and Winslow did not believe he could, per multiple sources.

But this situation is different. The Heat fully supports Oladipo sitting out as he deals with soreness and seeks additional medical opinions.

Not only does Andre Iguodala lead the Heat in fourth-quarter minutes with 406, but he has played the 12th most fourth-quarter minutes of any NBA player. Indiana’s T.J. McConnell is the only NBA nonstarter who has played more fourth-quarter minutes than Iguodala.

Of the 20 players who have logged the most fourth-quarter minutes, Miami has four of them: Bam Adebayo is 14th with 405, Duncan Robinson 16th at 403 and Tyler Herro 20th at 400.

Herro has played the entire fourth quarter in a league-high 21 games, per Stathead and NBA writer Simon Sperling.

If it seems like Iguodala is better offensively in the fourth quarter, you’re right. He’s shooting 38.9 percent on fourth-quarter three-pointers (21 for 54), compared with 30.1 percent on threes in the first three quarters (28 for 93).

Herro, though, is shooting just 27 percent on fourth-quarter threes (20 for 74).

Precious Achiuwa leads all Heat players and ranks 26th in the league in rebounds per 36 minutes at 10.4. That, plus his high energy and favorable matchups, positioned him as the first big off the bench (ahead of Nemanja Bjelica) during the past six quarters against the Lakers and Portland.

But the defensive metrics aren’t great. The player defended by Achiuwa has shot 11 for 15 in his past five games and 28 for 44 (64 percent) in his past 10 games.

Ex-Heat file: Kelly Olynyk has gone from averaging 10 points and shooting 31.7 percent on threes for the Heat this season to averaging 17 points and shooting 39 percent on threes in nine games for Houston, including six starts… Avery Bradley has come off the bench in six of his eight games for Houston and contributing modestly (6.1 points, 22.4 minutes)... Moe Harkless, who scored 15 points in 11 games for the Heat, is now starting for the Kings and averaging 4.8 points.

Kendrick Nunn, who had a very efficient game against Portland in his first night back in the starting lineup, is one of 13 players partnering with the NBA Players Association in philanthropic efforts. The union will match the players’ donations to their communities.

Nunn is giving a grant for the Dovetail Project, a nonprofit focused on providing comprehensive support services to single fathers in Chicago.