KRAVITZ: From awful to feathery: The Pacers are a totally different team with Oladipo

Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo (4) heads up court after picking up a loose ball in front of Chicago Bulls guard Kris Dunn (32) during a game on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Bob Kravitz

From the Urban Dictionary, the definition of "feathery": When someone is so blessed, they are light, like a feather. When someone is so close to God, it's like they are like a bird"

Let's use one of Victor Oladipo's favorite words, "feathery," in a sentence, like it's one of those Scripps Howard Spelling Bees:

"When the Pacers have Oladipo in the lineup, as they did in Monday night's 109-96 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, they are downright feathery. And when they don't have him in the lineup, as they were during a recent 5-game losing streak, they are like an ungainly, earthbound bird that can't help but trip over its own feet."

Feathery.

"My man is always feathery," Lance Stephenson was saying after the game. "I've never heard that word before, but I get it now. He's feathery. He's always feathery, always in a good mood, always singing, getting everybody in a good mood, same as him."

Always feathery? I mean, he never has un-feathery days?

"Well," Stephenson said, "not when he was injured. He wasn't as feathery then."

Look, Oladipo isn't the league's MVP, no matter how loud the Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowds screams "MVP! MVP!" when he goes to the free-throw line. He is, however, the unquestioned MVP of this team, a playoff-bound team with Oladipo and a lottery-bound team without him. Let's put it in musical terms, given Oladipo's love of music: Without him, the Pacers are the Jackson Five without Michael.

That simple. We know how this thing works, right? Take Peyton Manning away from the Colts and they're picking first in the NFL Draft. Take Andrew Luck away, they're picking third. Where would the Milwaukee Bucks be without their MVP candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo? Nowhere, that's where. Although even with Antetokounpo – and here's hoping PA man Jerry Baker is having a stiff drink after butchering the man's surname every time he attempted to utter it – the Pacers eviscerated the Bucks, running out to a 29-point lead before Milwaukee made a late run to turn it into a more palatable 13-point loss.

"He (Oladipo) just makes life easier for everybody else," said Pacers assistant coach Bill Bayno.

It's hard to imagine there's another NBA player who makes a more profound difference in his team. For the five games Oladipo was out, the Pacers couldn't score, couldn't defend and looked like they'd been plucked. With him…feathery. One game after holding the Bulls to a season-low 37 first-half points, the Pacers came back and limited Milwaukee to just 38 points. They defended like their hair was on fire, filling the passing lanes, scrambling to help on Antetokounmpo, whose 20-game streak of 20-or-more points was broken (he scored 17 on 3-of-8 shooting and was minus-19 while he was on the floor).

Before the game, Nate McMillan was asked if he was shocked how different his team looked without Oladipo.

"You know, he makes a difference," he said. "One guy doesn't make a team, but when you have a guy who's been as productive as he's been and you lose him, you can go through a rough period. And we did struggle…"

Let me interrupt here: One guy does make a team. Well, he makes this team, anyway.

"The (opposing) defense has to play a different style of defense when he's on the floor," McMillan continued. "He's been able to score against single coverage, make passes and plays against traps and he's been able to create opportunities not only for himself but for his teammates. And on the defensive end, he's been able to create turnovers, which lead to transition baskets."

When Oladipo is on the floor, the Pacers are downright feathery, a 21-14 team with him, 0-5 without him. And everybody else looks like a different player. Myles Turner, who struggled through the 5-game losing streak, played his best game in quite a while, blocking three early shots and scoring 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Everybody looked better. Everything flowed. Offensively, defensively…a different team with different players.

Now, Oladipo would like you to believe that him and his old AAU teammates in the D.C. area came up with the term "feathery," but after foolishly and unsuccessfully checking out the dictionary, I moved to the urban dictionary – seeing as how I'm a late-middle-age white guy who is not up on urban slang. And there it was, Oladipo's word, which is not really his word, although he's going to appropriate it and take it worldwide.

"You going to copyright it, like 'three-peat?'" I asked him.

"How do you know I haven't?" he responded.

You haven't, Victor.

"Well, maybe I'll look into that," he said. "We're trying to make it a worldwide thing, you know? China, Australia, South America, North America, Africa. Make it worldwide."

I asked him, you sure you didn't just steal the term?

"Nah, we made it up," he said.

Then we continued to have one of the more bizarre conversations I've ever had in a basketball lockerroom, debating whether all birds have feathers (any ornithologists in the house?) and other matters of grave national importance.

"Were you guys feathery tonight?"

"No doubt," he said with a smile.

With Oladipo, the Pacers can fly, take it to unexpected altitudes, although, like Icarus, they don't want to get too close to the sun. But a playoff spot would suffice.

Anyway, my column is done for the night.

Yeah, I'm feathery.

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