Oladipo: Gilbert’s words ‘added fuel to the fire’

Victor Oladipo of the Pacers, shown tying up LeBron James of the Cavaliers on Sunday, said he "was aware" of a comment made by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert last summer.

Turns out, LeBron James is not the only NBA player to be peeved by public comments by Dan Gilbert.

James, who was excoriated by the Cavaliers owner in The Letter after The Decision back in 2010, has been joined by Victor Oladipo.

After Oladipo and Damantas Sabonis were acquired by the Pacers in exchange for All-Star Paul George last summer, Gilbert said Indiana “could’ve done better than it did” in the deal.

Oladipo torched the Cavaliers for 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting (including 6 of 9 from deep) and also contributed six rebounds, four assists, four steals and a blocked shot Sunday in leading the Pacers to a 98-80 win in Game 1 of their playoff series.

Asked about Gilbert’s remark on July 26 after the game, the former Indiana University star who blossomed into an All-Star this season, said he was “aware of it.”

“You could say it added fuel to the fire, I guess you could say,” Oladipo said after the the Game 1 win. “But that was so long ago. It came up recently, obviously, because we were playing the Cavs in the series, but I’m aware of what he said.

“Can’t control his opinion. All I’m focused on is myself and becoming the best Victor Oladipo possible.”

Oladipo outplayed Cleveland star LeBron James in the fourth quarter, making 4-of-5 points, while James shot just 1-of-3.

“We’ve been playing like this all year,” Oladipo said. “Been playing hard on both ends all year. It just hasn’t been magnified. So it’s the playoffs now, we’ve been doing this all year. Now everybody sees, so it’s like, it’s kind of shocking to everybody, I guess you could say. But we’ve been playing hard. We’ve been playing our butts off on both ends of the floor all year.”

Oladipo said he and his teammates know who they are going up against in this series. A year ago, Cleveland swept Indiana in a first-round series, 4-0.

“We’re fully aware of LeBron. We’re fully aware of his team, and we realize it’s not going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean we’re just going to come in here and just fold,” he said. “We planning on winning. That’s why we came to this series.

“That’s why we came to play this game, is to win, not just to come here and just be OK. That’s what we’re focused on — taking it one game at a time, trying to win every game.”

Pacers coach Nate McMillan said he never mentioned Gilbert’s comment from last summer, but that the Pacer players were aware of it.

“The game itself, playing the game the right way, is what we use as motivation,” McMillan said. “Now, I’m sure our guys have heard that. I’m sure Victor, somebody might have told him that here in the last couple days. But I haven’t used that type of information as bulletin-board material.

“For us, it’s about going out and giving all we have playing the game the right way, playing the game together. That has been the motivation from this group.”