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The meaning of Granger’s latest injury

So, Danny Granger is out three weeks with a strained left calf. This will surely ignite more cries of “he’s done” in cyberspace and on the airwaves, no matter how illogical that argument seems for a muscle strain. Injuries are like bad reputations. Once you have one for a prolonged period of time, it’s nearly impossible to repair your image.

The question becomes, is this merely a blip in Granger’s comeback from the knee issues that kept him out of all but five games last season? Or is it a sign that his 30-year-old body is breaking down and he’s headed for a chain reaction of injuries that will plague him through the rest of his career?

Time will tell, but for now the best advice is throw on another log of patience. No 30-year-old NBA player’s career ever ended because of a muscle strain, and all of the indications in training camp were that Granger’s surgically repaired left knee is fine, more of a mental hurdle than a physical impairment.

What we know for sure now is that Lance Stephenson will start for the immediate future, and probably for the rest of the season. Coach Frank Vogel stated early in training camp that Granger would start if healthy. More recently, he said Granger would be given starting opportunities once healthy to see how it worked. Given the uncertainty of Granger’s availability, Vogel might decide to stick with Granger in a reserve role, where any uncertainty surrounding him would have less impact. If the Pacers open the season well with Stephenson in the starting lineup, why change?

We also know that what’s bad for Granger is good for Rasual Butler. The 34-year-old forward has made the team for the start of the season after re-earning his place in the NBA by playing in the Development League last season and on the Pacers’ summer league team. He’s the perfect end-of-bench guy with a just-happy-to-be-here attitude, but one who can hit shots, play with poise and lend sage advice to younger players. The true test for him is Jan. 10, when all contracts become guaranteed. If Granger’s status remains questionable at that time, he’s probably employed for the rest of the season.

It also makes the drafting of forward Solomon Hill seem prescient. Hill is 22, but acts and plays like he’s 34. Like Butler, he can step in and be counted upon at least to not screw everything up, and hit an occasional jump shot. He was likely to get rotation minutes anyway. Now, with Granger out, he’s almost assured of it.

How long will Granger be out? Will he ever be 100 percent, whatever his 30-year-old, post-surgery version of 100 percent happens to be? How should he be used when he returns? The answers are to come, just not as quickly as we thought.

Take a deep breath, though, and remind yourself of this: Granger has a muscle strain. That’s all. A muscle strain.

About The Author

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Mark Montieth has more than 30 years of experience as a reporter, columnist, and feature writer for major media entities, and his work has been featured both in Indiana and across the country. This is his second full season contributing to Pacers.com, though he spent many years as the team's beat writer for the Indianapolis Star. Montieth also hosts a radio show called "One on One" on 1070 the Fan.

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