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Heat's Victor Oladipo tears patellar tendon, latest injury setback

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MIAMI (AP) —The reactions from VictorOladipo’s Miami Heatteammatestold the story as he saton the court,holding onto his left knee as fans watched instunned silence.Kyle Lowryyelled a profanity.MaxStruscovered his face with a towel.JimmyButlerheld his head in his hands, staring at the floor.

They feared he was hurt badly. They were right.

The Heat announced Sunday that Oladipo tore his left patellartendon, a diagnosis that came after an MRI earlier in the day. Theinjury ends Oladipo’s season and calls his availability for thestart of next season — and likely beyond — into serious doubt. Hewill need a third major surgery in just over four years, theprevious two coming after a quadriceps injury over his rightknee.

No timetable will likely be known until after the surgery.

“Yes, there are injuries. That is a part of this game. Weunderstand that,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday before theteam learned of the diagnosis. “But the human side of it, when yousee somebody that’s overcome so much and he’s done it time and timeand time again, and he always does it with an incredible positivespirit and a smile on his face even last night … that’s why Iadmire him so much.”

Oladipo’sis the second significant injury for the Heat in the first threegames of this postseason against Milwaukee.Eighth-seededMiami holdsa 2-1 leadover the top-seeded Bucks going into Game 4 onMonday night. Tyler Herro was lost for at least six weeks, whichprobably means the rest of the season no matter how far Miamiadvances, when he broke his right hand in Game 1 at Milwaukee.

Herro’sinjury seemed to open a door for Oladipo to have a bigger role inMiami’s guard rotation; Oladipo played 26 minutes in Game 2 and 19before getting hurt in Game 3.

Oladipo hasmissed 255 of a possible 374 games since initially getting hurtwhile playing for Indiana in 2019. He’s been listed as inactive for226 of those games, the second-most in the NBA over that spanbehind Orlando’s Jonathan Isaac.

“Thephysical toll of rehab is tough but mentally, it’s even tougher,”said Heat center Cody Zeller, who played with Oladipo in college atIndiana and has been close with him for years. “And he’s always sopositive. He’ll attack this rehab like he has the others. Mentally,I don’t know how he does it. There’s a lot of long days, a lot ofslow days and it’s tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel.I’m just sick for him.”

The injurycame shortly afterOladipo pulled offperhaps one of his top highlight-reel playsof the season,controlling a rebound at one end, dribbling downcourt at fullspeed, blowing past three Milwaukee players on his way to the rimand scoring — punching the air in celebration to end that play.

The nextshot he took was his last: He drove down the lane, getting past twoBucks, then appeared to slip as he tried to plant for his jumpandgrabbed at his knee rightawayas he landed.

“I think ofall these times behind the scenes when no one’s watching,”Spoelstra said. “I feel like I’ve had a front-row seat to that onall these off days the last three years, on weekends when no one ishere — but he’s on the training table, and then working his way tothe weight room, usually like a four- or five-hour process and thenfinishing up with all the post-rehab work. … Those can be veryfrustrating times, but you never would see that on his face.”

Miami’sguard rotation is now very thin. Gabe Vincent and Kyle Lowry arethe point guards. Strus and Duncan Robinson — who has been in andout of the rotation this season, but had 20 points in Game 3 — willbe the primary shooting guards. There aren’t many otheroptions.

Oladipo,who has a $9.5 million player option for nextseason,was a two-time All-Star with Indianabeforegetting hurt in January 2019.He returned a yearlater, wasn’t anywhere near the same player and Indiana traded himto Houston in January 2021. The Rockets didn’t keep him longbeforemoving him to Miami,with whom Oladipo played fourgames in March 2021 before getting hurt again.

Oladipoappeared in just eight regular-season games in the 2021-22 seasonwhile recovering from a second surgery to repair his rightquadriceps tendon. He got into 15 playoff games for Miami lastseason, then agreed on a two-year deal to stay with the Heat lastsummer.

He playedin 42 games this season with Miami, his most in any regular seasonsince 2017-18.

“Nevercount him out,” Robinson said. “But it hurts.”

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