Granger to play 15-20 minutes in his season debut vs Houston
It’s been a long time since Danny Granger has suited up for a meaningful basketball game. 293 days to be exact, all the way back to March 3rd when he played eight minutes against the Chicago Bulls before checking out for good as his left knee continued to be a bother.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel confirmed on Thursday after a light practice that Granger, who’s been sidelined with a strained left calf since Oct. 18, will make his season debut against the Houston Rockets Friday night. Though he has no medical restriction, they’ll keep him to 15-20 minutes to start out.
“There’s no way to simulate the game intensity, game adrenaline so I’m sure that’ll feel differently for him and there’s going to be an adjustment period while he gets used to that again,” Vogel said.
Granger played in five of the team’s seven preseason contests, averaging 22 minutes per game. He shot just 32 percent from the field as he tried to regain his confidence and comfort at game speed. After re-aggregating a left calf injury, he limited his work for more than a month, but has picked up his activity over the last two weeks.
The team announced on Sunday that the plan was for Granger to return to action this Friday, after one more week of practice to improve on the fundamentals and his conditioning.
“I had a ways to go, but I feel better now,” he said.
“I’m still probably going to forget a few plays in the game. I’m still probably going to have some mishaps that’s uncharacteristic of me, but I’m a lot better than I was a week ago.”
After practice, which followed a 97-94 loss in Miami, Vogel had some reserves run through plays with Granger at both wing positions for about 30 minutes. Most of the plays ended with the ball in Granger’s hand for a shot.
Granger will play the backup wing spot, taking the 17 or so minutes per game being allotted to Rasual Butler in the previous three games.
Paul George, who has had Granger in his ear for the last few years, is excited to have No. 33 back in the lineup.
“It’ll be great,” he said. “Danny was the first one that really took me under his wings, going all the way back to my draft year. Even pre-draft. Having Danny back on the floor with me will be special. It’ll be special for me because he was somebody that I looked up to and continue to look up to. It’s like having your big brother back out there.”
As Granger can handle additional playing time, that might allow George to play fewer minutes, something he understands may be necessary.
“Yeah, I can tan on the sideline,” George joked, drawing laughter.
“It will give me some time to be able to see what’s going on on the floor…While I’m playing, I want to play 48 minutes but after the game’s over, I’m like, ‘I wish I played 36 (minutes).’ I love being on the floor. I know coach makes the perfect and the right decisions as far as my minutes, if he feels that or if I give him a hint that I’m doing good, he’ll keep me in.”
Granger can help with the scoring load of the bench. Indiana’s improved second unit averages just 24 points per game, the fourth-lowest total in the league. It is his goal to get healthy for the first time in two years, and be able to contribute come late April.
“It’s not a thing where I have to rush [back] or do this or do that,” said Granger. “As long as I’m ready by the playoffs, I’ll be fine.”