Pacers address Oladipo’s recovery, free agency, ‘bitter note’ that ended the season
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — After the Pacers’ season ended with a failure to post a win in the postseason in getting swept by the Celtics, Pacers President Kevin Pritchard said that even after taking time away, the series left a bitter taste in his mouth.
“I am happy with the season, but it ended on a bitter note,” Pritchard said Wednesday during the team’s end-of-season news conference. “That taste is still in our mouths. It’s hard to get over it, but I am proud of this team and proud of Nate and I think the future looks really bright.”
Pritchard and head coach Nate McMillan spent nearly an hour speaking to local media, covering everything from the team’s resilience following the loss of Victor Oladipo due to injury, Oladipo’s status in recovery from knee surgery, free agency, and the potential to see more of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis sharing the court next season.
Oladipo visited the team ahead of their game four loss to Boston at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He walked into the locker room without the assistance of crutches and without a discernible limp or limitation. Pritchard explained that he had dinner with Oladipo this week and although he couldn’t provide details on a timeline for his return to practice, was reassured by the All-Star guard in his status moving forward.
“He has made it clear to be he is going to be back and a better player. In true Vic style, he promised he’s coming back at 200%, 300% of what he was,” adding, “He’s so contagious.”
When asked about the void left by Oladipo this season, McMillan explained, “Victor is really the engine that helped us go. And when we lost him we had to really establish a new culture, new style of play to finish the season.”
With free agency looming, Pritchard explained they will be aggressive with an estimated $43 million in cap space.
“The thing that we can offer any player is we believe we have a very strong culture, very player-centric. And you know we are going to win,” Pritchard said.
On addressing the Pacers’ needs in the offseason, especially following getting swept by the Celtics, Pritchard added, “We need some creation, we need a guy who can break up a defense.”
He added that he will pursue “creators” at any position, and “I love a good passing team, passing is contagious.”
On spending to get a high-profile, top tier talent, “Herb has never told me no if it makes the team better.”
With a significant number of Pacers becoming free agents, Bojan Bogdanovic and Thad Young among them, Pritchard was asked about how much of a priority it will be to attempt to keep Bogey in the “Blue and Gold” for the foreseeable future.
“We would like to have extensive talks with Bojan,” Pritchard explained. “He is going to have interest and we can feel that already. On July 1 I feel I am going to have a very long talk with Bojan.”
He was also quick to point out how valuable Young has been as a leader in the franchise, especially with what he sees as the NBA being a “very player-driven league.”
The NBA Draft is set for June 20, in which the Pacers hold the 18th pick. Pritchard said they will be open to making moves with that pick, adding “I love the draft. I can’t wait. I wish it were tomorrow.”