Granger Mystery Resolved — For Now
From Day One, it had been the background lyric of the Pacers’ season: When is Danny Granger coming back?
Now we know: Not this season.
And now the question becomes whether or not he’ll ever play again. It’s a legitimate doubt, given his history with knee problems. Knees do not heal themselves, and despite the miracles that can be performed in operation rooms, degenerative conditions cannot be reversed with a scalpel. Granger dropped to the Pacers in the 2005 draft because of a knee condition – different than this one – and while he had been a durable player throughout his first seven seasons, all the transitions have taken a toll.
Agness: Granger’s Season Over »
Granger likely would be better off if he had torn a ligament that could be replaced like a pump, belt or motor. He will have surgery, as the Pacers announced Thursday afternoon, but we don’t know the details of it, and the prognosis for his return will have to remain uncertain until he’s back in uniform for more than a few games.
News of Granger’s fate was still echoing throughout cyberspace when the conspiracy theorists began weighing in, claiming insight that Granger was never going to be able to return this season. That ignores the fact he made an aborted five-game comeback that began on Feb. 25, had been practicing with the team again, and flew out with the team on Tuesday for its four-game road trip. It also ignores the fact that I sat in Donnie Walsh’s office on Monday while he had a discussion regarding Granger’s knee with an informed visitor who dropped in for a few minutes. The hope then was that Granger would return as early as Wednesday’s game in Houston. There was no mention of this latest comeback attempt being an exercise in futility.
The question will be asked, why was surgery not performed in the first place? That’s an easy one. Surgery is always the last option, especially on a knee. I recall the Pacers putting off surgery on Rik Smits’ foot in 1996 as long as possible before relenting – and then finding out a couple of years later it might have been avoidable. The knife is always the least appealing weapon when treating injuries.
Now, at least, the team can direct its focus to the drama that occurs on the court. No need to debate whether Granger should start or come off the bench, no need to wonder how much help Granger could provide. Lance Stephenson will continue to start, and Orlando Johnson and Sam Young will have a place in the rotation. Certainty is highly desirable this late in the season, and Granger’s return would have threatened that even if he were able to contribute.
Still, anything short of a championship this season and people will wonder for eternity how the Pacers would have fared with a healthy Granger. The possibilities are intriguing. Imagine adding a player who had led the team in scoring the past five seasons, a player who should be in the prime of his career, to a team that’s won better than 60 percent of its games without him. Would it have been enough to win a championship?
We’ll never know. Not this season, anyway. Granger has one year left on a contract that will pay him $14.2 million next season. If he is forced to retire, insurance will pay the balance and the Pacers suddenly have more room under the salary cap. It seems likely he’ll at least try to play again, though, and will be in uniform next season.
After the season, speculation about Granger’s future will resume. For now, however, the Pacers can enjoy some peace and quiet on that front. That’s a good thing. But not nearly as good as him playing again.