MIAMI – Danny Granger has been doing a lot of huffing and puffing in his team’s playoff series against the Miami Heat, picking up three technical fouls in the last three games and getting in the grills of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at different times.
The Indiana forward has talked about doing it for his own team’s benefit, to keep the Pacers focused and playing with some sort of edge against the superstar-driven Heat. Maybe he’s serving as a surrogate of sorts, too, for all the fans out there who might wonder how they or anyone else could try to close the gap in skills on James and Wade without feeling intimidated.
If that’s why Granger has been so feisty, fine. But if he’s actually trying to rattle the Heat, that battle already has been lost.
“Whatever he’s trying, it’s not working,” James said after Miami’s morning shootround Tuesday, prior to Game 5 that evening at AmericanAirlines Arena. “Whether he’s trying to do it for his own self-confidence, to say, OK … he’s told you guys already, he’s not scared of LeBron, ‘I want to let him know.’ So I guess he’s doing it for his own … psyche? It’s stupid.”
Granger said after Game 4 – when he and Wade got nose-to-nose after Wade took exception to a foul by Roy Hibbert – and again Tuesday that he wants to make sure his team doesn’t yield too much to what he called Miami’s “media darlings.”
“I think there is a line and I’m tip-toeing it,” he said. “That’s a product of the chip on my shoulder and we have on our shoulder as a team of not being respected. That goes not just for this series, but all year.”
Granger talked about the Pacers not getting on national TV, a common lament of those franchises on the way up, lacking in marquee names or playing in smallish markets. Indiana checks all three boxes, though none of that is the Heat’s fault. “It was just a matter of being disrespected nationally,” he said.
Those who didn’t pay attention to Indiana’s first-round series a year ago with Chicago missed seeing Granger in virtually the same mode, yapping or whacking at the Bulls (and getting help from departed big men Josh McRoberts and Jeff Foster). Now it’s happening one round later, with James and Wade as targets, so it’s getting overblown coverage.
But the principals aren’t biting.
“I’m all for standing up for your guys, but certain things you just can’t keep doing,” Wade said. “My message to Granger [in the Game 4 yammering] was that you just can’t keep running up into people’s faces for altercations. We’re not fighting on this basketball court, so let’s not act like we’re going to fight. We can be physical and do all that, but certain things got to stop.”
Said James: “No one’s going to fight. I’m not going to fight because I mean too much to our team. I can’t afford to be suspended for a game or do something stupid that will get me kicked out of a playoff game.”