CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Cavaliers and owner Dan Gilbert have a history with Victor Oladipo.
The most recent came up after Game 1 of the playoffs when Oladipo led the Indiana Pacers to a 98-80 victory over the Cavs.
Oladipo was asked about a Gilbert comment from this summer.
That was when the Cavs tried — and failed — to trade for Indiana star Paul George.
There was a three-way deal pending with Kevin Love going to Denver, the Nuggets sending guard Gary Harris and the No. 13 pick in the 2017 draft to Indiana.
Coming to the Cavs would have been George.
The Cavs thought the deal was in place.
Indiana backed out, instead shipping George to Oklahoma City.
In return, the Pacers received center Damantas Sabonis and Oladipo.
Not long after the trade was made, the Cavs had a press conference introducing Koby Altman as general manager.
At one point, the George trade talks were asked about.
Gilbert said, “I will say Indiana could have done better than it did.”
The Pacers say they didn’t use that to motivate Oladipo for the series, but the guard admitted, “It added fuel to the fire.”
In his fifth NBA season, Oladipo has found a coach and team that fully believes in him.
From the moment he arrived in Indianapolis, Oladipo was told by coach Nate McMillan to be ready to take big shots and lead the Pacers.
A veteran coach, McMillan was convinced the 25-year-old Oladipo was at the right stage of his career. The coach prepared Oladipo to move from being a solid 15-point scorer to an All-Star.
McMillan and the Pacers were right.
The 6-foot-4 Oladipo averaged 23 points this season, shooting .477 from the field and .371 on 3-pointers.
Oladipo was not considered a good outside shooter during his three years at Indiana University. He was mostly known for his defense, athleticism and being an effective rebounder as a guard.
In each of his five NBA seasons, Oladipo’s shooting percentage — from 2-point and 3-point range — has improved.
He is the son of a nurse from Nigeria and a father who has a PhD in Behavioral Science. Christopher Oladipo is from Sierra Leone and is a public health executive for Prince George’s County in Maryland.
Oladipo comes from a hard-working, success-driven immigrant family.
And that is the first thing that fueled him, long before any comment from Dan Gilbert.
THE 2013 DRAFT
But here’s something to know: Dan Gilbert LOVED Oladipo in the 2013 draft.
I found that out when researching that draft for my Cavs book, THE COMEBACK.
The Cavs had the first pick. General manager Chris Grant didn’t like many of the players in what was a rather weak draft.
This was the summer of 2013. The front office did like Oladipo to an extent. But they already had two young guards — Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
They didn’t think it made sense to draft yet another guard — especially one with a suspect outside shot.
Instead, they took Anthony Bennett, who became one of the worst No. 1 picks in NBA history. His career scoring average was 4.4 and he last played in the NBA in 2016-17.
Turns out, there were some good and possibly great players in the draft.
Oladipo went No. 2 to Orlando.
All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo was the No. 15 pick by Milwaukee.
North Canton product C.J. McCollum has averaged at least 21 points in each of the last three seasons. He was the No. 10 pick by Portland.
The No. 3 pick was Otto Porter, who has had a solid career with Washington.
In fact, Gilbert has always felt good about his backing of Oladipo in that 2013 draft and hoped the guard would do well. He was just upset at Indiana because he thought Paul George was coming to Cleveland.