Ray Allen and Danny Granger haven’t had much in common throughout their NBA careers, other than an uncanny ability to occasionally get blistering hot as shooters and go on improbable scoring jags.
Now they share something else: A view that the Boston Celtics aren’t all that.
That was implicit in Allen’s decision to leave Boston and sign with the Miami Heat as a sharpshooting free agent — the veteran was unpersuaded by team president Danny Ainge’s moves to keep the band together or so hurt by perceived past slights that he hooked up with the Eastern Conference favorites. Now Granger has made it explicit in leapfrogging his own Indiana Pacers over the Celtics in the East’s pecking order.
In fact, when talking with Pacers beat guy Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star during his annual basketball camp in town, Granger ignored Boston completely – same thing with the New York Knicks – while at least nodding to the Nets’ fresh start and improved cast in Brooklyn.
Like everybody else in the Pacers organization, Granger is eager for the season to start after they were eliminated by Miami in six games in the second round of the playoffs last season.
“Still not over it,” Granger said laughing about losing to the Heat. “I’m over it. It happens. They were the better team. I think they deserved to win the championship. That’s the way it goes. We have to get better.”
The Eastern Conference will be better next season.
Brooklyn, Boston, New York and the Pacers are expected to be in the mix for seeds 2-4 in the East.
Granger believes they’ve got the second best team in the conference behind the Heat.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Brooklyn, they are going to be a threat. Obviously Miami is going to be there, but I think we still view ourselves as a top-2 team in the East.”
One legitimate reason that Granger is emboldened is the anticipated step back that the Chicago Bulls will be taking while forced to play much or all of the season without star point guard Derrick Rose. That opens up the Central Division, with no team better poised to take over than the Pacers, 42-24 in the lockout-shorted 2011-12 season.
Indiana, coached by Frank Vogel, has made strides the past two years, challenging the Bulls in the first round in 2011. They then went up 2-1 in the conference semifinals in May against eventual champion Miami before losing the series 4-2. They dealt swiftly and largely below the radar in getting center Roy Hibbert and guard George Hill re-signed, added big man Ian Mahinmi for Darren Collison in a sign-and-trade deal with Dallas and will get busy in their development and team-bonding later in August in Los Angeles, Wells reported.
Now if they can avoid spitting out the bit.
“I think we’re still hungry,” Granger said. “When you have that drive you don’t become complacent. We had a good year, but we really didn’t accomplish anything yet. So, we all still realize that and we’re a veteran team and we know we have a long ways to go.”
Maybe longer than they’re even acknowledging, if the Celtics and the Knicks have a say in it.