Pacers targeting Dec. 20 return for Danny Granger
Might this finally be the week that Danny Granger makes his anticipated season debut? That’s the plan right now for the Pacers.
“I was waiting for the Danny Granger [question],” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said more than four minutes into a post-practice interview. “I finally have news on Danny Granger. We’re going to target next Friday for a hopeful return to see how this week of practices goes.”
Until now, the Pacers stayed away from publicly announcing a timeline after the initial diagnosis. Now, both Vogel and Granger appear giddy about the possibility of him playing Friday when the Houston Rockets are in town. Coincidentally, the game will be nationally televised by ESPN.
“I had a good practice today,” Granger said. “It’s really just fine-tuning my game, honestly. Making sure my timing is on, making sure I know all the plays. That’s a big thing when you haven’t played in awhile. I know the plays but I haven’t repped through the plays like all the other guys constantly get a lot of reps through the plays.”
Last Tuesday, before the Pacers laced it up against Miami, Granger told reporters that there was a “very good chance” he would play later that week. Granger said he and coach Vogel are always on the same page, and that both agreed that he needed more practice time before putting on his game uniform.
“Me and Frank talk after practice — he’ll call me in or he’ll call me over,” said Granger. “Just because I said ‘Hopefully I can play on Friday,’ I was thinking hopefully. And then when I came and I practiced, and I dribbled the ball off my foot twice and I shot an airball on a layup, me and Frank met again and I’m like, ‘I’m not ready,’ and he was like, ‘No, you’re not ready yet.’”
What is there, is his confidence. Granger was animated like a kid on Christmas morning when talking about his likely return to play. Confidence in his game was most evident the last time he played, Oct. 18 in Chicago for a preseason tilt.
“I was real confident then because I had a few games under my belt and I was feeling good,” said Granger. “It takes a few games for me to get into a rhythm and get into a flow. I think most players are like that.
“Coming off the knee injury, you don’t have a lot of confidence, honestly. … My confidence is definitely coming back.”
Now in his ninth NBA season, Granger has typically been a slow starter. It’s fair to expect that again, though he doesn’t anticipate it.
“In the past in preseason, I always would tinker with different things in my game,” he explained. “I always used it as a time to do the things you’re good at, but just experiment with other things and notoriously I would always have a slow start. I’m trying to avoid that this year.
“I don’t know if (fans) think we’re just machines that you just turn on and all of sudden we’re playing in rhythm. Every basketball player is a rhythm player. It’s takes awhile. That’s why we have a preseason.
“I’m hoping the practices that I’ve been getting now, and the playing that I’ve been getting now is very similar to what I will do in a game. Obviously, when you get in a game you got adrenaline that you have to account for and that changes things a little bit. Just me practicing fullcourt, playing everyday, playing one-on-one, shooting a lot of shots, doing ball handling drills, I’m hoping that’ll be my time where I can get some of these kinks out.”
Granger has been on the court in some fashion everyday for the past week. When most of the team has the day off, like on Saturday, he was in with five other teammates.
“About six of us come in and we play 3-on-3 fullcourt, which is actually harder than what we did today at practice, honestly. We really get after it.”
The team’s medical staff continues to keep a close eye on Granger.
“They’re not out of it,” said Vogel. “They’re still very much involved because part of the final process of recovery from a calf strain is, is his body going to respond to the extra work? Is the calf going to flare up? They’re still checking it everyday and not ruling him 100 percent healthy until they see he can go through added work and the calf can still respond the right way.”
Should Granger step onto the floor Friday night, as hoped, it’ll be his first regular-season appearance since March 3, when he left the game (also against the Bulls) due to soreness in his left knee, which kept him out all but five games last season. The knee is really good, according to Granger, and he’s motivated more than ever to return to game action.