Heat reserve guard Victor Oladipo continues to work his way back from quadriceps tendon surgery. He has played in just four games since returning to the hardwood for Miami on March 7, averaging 5.5 points on .450/.222/.667 shooting across 16.3 MPG. Oladipo has also struggled with lower back spasms in recent days.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes that the Heat were never anticipating that Oladipo could be a starter this season playing major minutes. Winderman notes that the 6’4″ guard, a former two-time All-Star with the Pacers before being beset by injuries, could still be a valuable contributor for the East’s top-seeded club in spot minutes during the playoffs. The play of fellow reserve guards Max Strus and Gabe Vincent has made any help Oladipo provides a bit of a bonus.
There’s more out of the Southeast Division:
- Heat center Bam Adebayo, for one, believes he deserves to be named Defensive Player of the Year this season, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Adebayo has been the anchor for one of the league’s staunchest defenses this year. As of this writing, the Heat rank fifth in defensive rating and fourth in offensive points allowed per game. The 6’9″ big man has been no slouch when it comes to counting stats, either, averaging 19.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 3.5 APG this season for Miami. Though Adebayo has missed 25 games this season due to injury, missing some contests does not necessarily preclude a player from winning this particularly hardware. In the 2017-18 season, Jazz center Rudy Gobert won his first Defensive Player of the Year award after playing only 56 of 82 games for Utah.
- Hawks head coach Nate McMillan sounds fairly skeptical that starting power forward John Collins will be available to return to the floor for Atlanta in the 10-14 days he was initially projected to be out, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). “That’s when they will talk about his injury again,” McMillan says. “I don’t think we’re saying in two weeks he’ll be back. We will re-evaluate him in two weeks.”
- Hornets power forward Miles Bridges, handily at least a finalist for the 2022 Most Improved Player award thanks to his excellent play this year, is focused on reaching the playoffs with Charlotte following several past disappointments, per Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer. “I’ve been here before and all three years when we could’ve made the playoffs we didn’t finish like we wanted to,” Bridges said. “So I just want this year to be different.” Bridges is averaging 20.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 3.8 APG for the 36-35 Hornets, current occupants of the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte seems like a safe bet to at least qualify for the 2022 play-in tournament, as the club is 5.5 games ahead of the No. 11 seed, the Wizards, with just 11 games left in its season. Last year, the Hornets finished as the tenth seed with a 33-39 record, but lost to the Pacers in their play-in game, 144–117.