Victor Oladipo finds himself caught in the middle.
For months, the 30-year-old guard has stressed that he has emerged from the rabbit hole of injury and doubt, again feeling closer to the player who in 2018 was named third-team All-NBA and first-team All-Defensive, as well as a 2019 All-Star.
But the regained confidence also comes in a situation where to declare himself a starter and big-minutes, big-statistics contributor might come off as egoistic and selfish.
So during a private moment at the Miami Heat’s training camp at the Baha Mar resort, after working up an additional lather with drill work following practice on the makeshift courts at the facility’s convention center, Oladipo found himself taking an extended pause after the simplest of questions:
What are your goals for the season?
“I think the biggest one is . . . is, uh . . . that’s a great question,” he said, finding himself slowing down for the first time since his drenching drills.
“The few weeks prior to this,” he told the Sun Sentinel, “I was thinking about, like, ‘What are my goals, my expectations for the year?’ And I think this year I don’t have any. I know that sounds crazy. But for me, I think it’s about just living in the moment.
“I think the last four years, I’ve had expectations, I’ve had goals, I’ve had aspirations to do a certain thing. It’s out of my control. So I think right now I’m just focused on staying in the moment and living in the moment.”
This time the moments come without knee or quadriceps pain, ailments that limited him to 12 regular-season appearances with the Heat since being acquired from the Houston Rockets at the March 2021 NBA trading deadline. As it is, you have to go back to 2017-18 for the last time he played at least half the regular season.
“I really don’t have any goals or expectations for myself,” he said. “For this team, it’s to win a championship, obviously. But for me, it’s to contribute. Right now, I’m just focused on doing that.