CLEVELAND -- As Dan Gilbert addressed the media last summer, with his team facing no shortage of uncertainty of its own, the Cleveland Cavaliers owner took what even at the time seemed like an unnecessary jab at the Indiana Pacers.
"I will say Indiana could have done better than they did," Gilbert said last July, referencing the offseason deal in which the Pacers traded Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Gilbert's comments appeared to be a nod to the reported three-team trade offer which would have sent Kevin Love to the Denver Nuggets, guard Gary Harris and other trade pieces to Indiana and George to Cleveland. According to ESPN, the three teams had agreed to the deal before the Pacers backed out.
In retrospect, it'd be tough to argue with their decision.
On Sunday, Indiana took a 1-0 lead over the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, with one of the two pieces they acquired from Oklahoma City leading the way. Scoring a game-high 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting, Victor Oladipo handed LeBron James the only first-round Game 1 loss of his NBA career/
"I'm aware of it," Oladipo said flatly when asked if he had heard Gilbert's comments.
Asked to elaborate, the fifth-year guard, who arrived in Indiana alongside forward Domanta Sabonis, added, "I already had fuel. You could say it added fuel to the fire."
That's not to say Gilbert's comments played any sort of role in the Cavs' Game 1 loss on Sunday. Oladipo's playoff debut with the Pacers served as a mere continuation of the first All-Star campaign of his career, which has seen him average 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
Nevertheless, there's a certain irony to be found -- especially in retrospect -- in Gilbert criticizing another team for not getting enough back in return for its franchise player. While Gilbert was pointing fingers, his team was simultaneously fielding trade offers for a disgruntled Kyrie Irving, eventually settling on a package from the Boston Celtics built around Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and the Brooklyn Net's first-round pick.
Thomas and Crowder's careers in Cleveland didn't last past the NBA trade deadline, while the Nets' pick has just the eighth-best odds (2.8 percent) of winning the draft lottery next month.
Between injuries and the overhaul of their roster, the Cavs finished fourth in the Eastern Conference this season -- despite James playing in 82 games for the first time in his 15-year career. The Pacers, meanwhile, have been viewed as one of the league's biggest overachievers, improving both their win total and playoff seeding from a season ago, despite the departure of George.
On Sunday, Oladipo and the Pacers enjoyed what could very well be their coming out party with a 98-80 victory in Cleveland. It was just the second nationally televised game they had played in all year.
"I have no idea," Oladipo answered when asked what he thought onlookers would now be saying about his team. "And I really don't care."