Notebook: Granger Talks, Power Rankings, more
It’s been awhile since Danny Granger leaned up against the padded walls of the practice court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to talk with the local media. He’s remained silent for the almost four months after receiving an injection in his left knee by the world-renowned Dr. James Andrews.
Granger had been practicing with the team for almost two weeks, but he finally slipped on his blue ‘INDIANA’ No. 33 jersey and checked in at the scorer’s table Saturday in the first quarter of Indiana’s 90-72 victory in Detroit.
Granger admittedly was nervous during team warmups and while waiting for head coach Frank Vogel to signal for him to enter. He was fidgety and went back and forth from sitting on the bench to stretching behind it. This was all new to him, because he had never really missed much time during his career due to injuries.
It took Granger almost 17 game minutes to finally score—on a 15-foot baseline jumper in transition as he sagged behind the play. Though his statistics are forgettable—1-for-10 shooting, two rebounds, one assist and a block—the team’s reaction after he made his only shot at the 9:25 mark of the fourth quarter was memorable and telling. The bench exploded in excitement, full of smiles and high-fives as a timeout was called. It was like Granger had just nailed the game-winner.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen my teammates so excited,” Granger said Monday after practice. “I was just happy to get one. I went into the game saying that I’m not even going to worry about trying to score. If it happens, it happens. I finally got one, and they were just as happy as I was.”
The reaction says a lot this team. They’re in it together and personal agendas are nonexistent.
“These guys are all pulling for him,” Vogel added. “We’re all really excited about having him back. While it’s gonna take some time for Danny to get his legs under him and his rhythm, timing and conditioning underway, it’s not a chemistry issue in terms of working him back. These guys are welcoming him with open arms.”
As the tendon in his left knee heals, Granger’s minutes are limited. For at least another week, Vogel said he’ll play him about 15 to 20 minutes per game.
“The area in my tendon that has to heal is one of those areas that takes a long, long time to heal,” Granger explained. “(Doctors) say any tendon injury doesn’t get good blood supply and the healing the process is sometimes fully 12 months. We have an accelerated mind.”
“My knee is a process. Every practice, every day it gets a little bit better, a little bit better, a litter bit better. When I get to 100 percent, you’ll see it. This is actually part of my rehab, the playing because practice wouldn’t do it enough. I need to actually play to rehab my knee.”
Vogel said one big thing people aren’t thinking about is that Granger hadn’t gotten hit by screens in a long time (probably all the way back to the end of March, in their physical playoff series against Miami). That’s part of the process of getting him reacclimated with game situations. Overall, coach was very pleased with Granger’s first showing.
“I thought he moved great, defended well, missed a couple rotations just like everybody out there does,” said Vogel. “I liked the shots that he got for himself, they just didn’t fall and it’s just going to take time.”
Granger understands it’ll all take time and said he doesn’t feel rushed to return because the team has been so successful without him. He just wants to add to the mix.
“I don’t need to be the player that I was before. We have such a talented squad right now. We have five guys that are either All-Star caliber or been an All-Star on our team. I don’t think any team in the league has that right now…We’re a really, really deep team so I don’t need to do what I did in the past.”
Hill Retains the Bowling Crown
Coaches, players and their families joined together at a local bowling alley on Sunday for one of their yearly team-building exercises. They were allowed to form their own teams. Some included only teammates, while others brought in assistance from outside.
A team led by George Hill, which included a couple season-ticket holders, won the bowling outing for the second-straight year. 19 pins separated Hill from Tyler Hansbrough’s squad that finished second after two games plus a bowl-off. Sam Young tallied the best overall score and Ian Mahinmi won a prize for recording a turkey (three strikes in a row) in the 10th frame.
Hill, a very competitive guy no matter the subject, was proud to defend his title.
“You know, back-to-back champs. Everybody is going to say I’m cheating. I switched my team up from my team last year to a new team this year and I’m still cheating. It’s hard when people are at the bottom, they’re always trying to pick at you at the top. I’ll sit at the top, on my crown, and enjoy it.
“I don’t want to boast about my score but we won. I don’t want to make any of my teammates mad. They are very sensitive on the bowling subject.”
Rising In the Rankings
ESPN released their weekly NBA Power Rankings and a new team has jumped into the top five for the first time this season – the 35-21 Indiana Pacers. They jumped three spots to fourth, behind only San Antonio, Miami and Oklahoma City.
“The Pacers just became the first team in NBA history to win its first two games after the All-Star break by 30 points or more. Which certainly didn’t do anything to hurt Indy’s claim that, with or without Danny Granger, it deserves to be known as the East’s most legit threat to the Heat.”
A Billy Keller Sighting
As I sat just outside the locker room, talking with a few Pacers staff members about Sunday’s bowling event, a familiar face walked down the long hallway that leads into the team’s sacred ground: Billy Keller. The Pacers’ shooting coach, and former ABA player with team for seven seasons, made his first appearance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since having back surgery on December 20th, as first reported (link: http://blogs.pacers.com/kellers-aching-back-keeping-him-down/) on Pacers.com.
Keller had surgery on his back to treat three different items: a bulging disc, vertebra that was forward 8 millimeters and clean up arthritis. His back locked up one afternoon while trying to push some water off the cover of his boat.
He’s allowed to come back to watch games and practice, but he can’t participate on the floor. It is his hope to be cleared in four to six weeks.
Packing Party a Success
211 volunteers consisting of Pacers Sports & Entertainment players and staff, local media, and volunteers from other nearby organizations packed meals for mroe than four hours on Monday. They surpassed their goal of 44,000 meals, which will be distributed both locally through Gleaners Food Bank and globally through partners of Kids Against Hunger.
Each meal includes rice, soy-based protein, fruits and vegetables. The meals should feed about 120 families for an entire year.