Pacers Feel For Granger, But Eager To Plow Into the Playoffs

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DALLAS – As late as Wednesday, after the Indiana Pacers beat the Rockets in Houston and then huddled around the nearest TV to catch the end of Bulls-Heat, they believed Danny Granger was coming back.

Word was as soon as Thursday night at Dallas.

All that changed in a matter of about 15 hours when coach Frank Vogel got the definitive news Thursday afternoon: Granger is done for 2012-13. After flare-ups followed a lone failed comeback bid in late February and early March led to another round of doctor consultations, the determination was for the former All-Star to undergo surgery on his troublesome left knee.

Granger’s next stop is the OR. But the Pacers’ is the postseason. As disappointing as the news is for Granger and his teammates, Indiana has reached this point — a dogfight with the New York Knicks for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference — without the him for all but five mostly ineffective games all season.

“It was surprising, I’ve been thinking he was coming back all along, but we can’t do anything about it now,” guard George Hill said. “I hope that he has a safe recovery and a quick recovery, but we have to move on as a team and continue doing what we’ve been doing all year long without him and that’s finding our identity and playing good, solid team basketball.”

As much as the addition of a 6-foot-9 shooter might have boosted the Pacers for the stretch run and beyond, integrating Granger at this late date could have proven more problematic than beneficial. In the five games he did play (more like three games because he logged just 10 and eight minutes in his final two appearances), Granger averaged 5.4 points and 1.8 rebounds. He played 19 minutes in each of his first three games.

“Now that question whether he’s going to get back or not is out of our minds,” David West said. “And we just have to go ahead with the guys we have.”

The Pacers have managed to fill Granger’s position nicely with budding All-Star Paul George, journeymen Gerald Green and Sam Young, and rookie Orlando Johnson. Lance Stephenson has emerged as a contributor as the starting shooting guard. Roles have long been established as has the Pacers’ hard-nosed identity as the league’s toughest defense.

With just nine games left after Thursday’s matchup with the Mavericks, the Pacers are focused on capturing the No. 2 seed. They’re hopeful of grinding their way to the East finals against the Heat, last season’s playoff ouster who Indiana actually rooted for to extend their streak to 28 at Chicago.

Indiana won the regular-season series with Miami, 2-1, taking two home games by an average margin of 11.5 points and holding the Heat to 77 and 89 points. With or without Granger, they believe they possess the team defense, interior size and scoring to make the Heat sweat.

“Succeeding in this league is about confidence, and it’s not like we just lost Danny and we have to go out and establish a belief in ourselves,” Vogel said. “We have a great deal of belief in ourselves, in who we’ve become this year without Danny. Obviously, we had hopes to bring him back, but we have a great deal of confidence.”

Vogel said he spoke to Granger Thursday prior to him leaving the team to return to Indianapolis and meet with doctors.

“He’s at peace with [the decision for surgery]. He knows that it’s the best decision,” Vogel said. “He’s disappointed, but you’ve got to make the best decision and we feel like we did.”

The best news to come Thursday for the Pacers was the return of West, Indiana’s second-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder (just a tick below George in both categories) from a six-game absence with a balky back.

West has made tremendous strides this season, returning to the form prior to his ACL injury that made him a two-time All-Star with the New Orleans Hornets. He’s averaging 17.3 ppg, up from 12.8 last season, on nearly 50 percent shooting, and 7.7 rpg, up from 6.6 last season.

“I don’t think you could give him enough credit for what he’s done with our team and our culture,” Vogel said of the 10-year veteran West. “He’s the lion in the locker room, he’s the heart and soul and he gives us the swagger of knowing we’re playing with one of the best in the game at the power forward position.”

What had been Granger’s team is now in West’s hands. A physical, defensive force and offensive go-to-guy in the clutch, West becomes a free agent this summer, while Granger returns for the final year of his deal.

But on Thursday, with Granger’s official departure and West’s return, all the uncertainty has ceased except for this: Just how far can these Pacers can go?

12 Comments

  1. NBAfan says:

    A lot of respect for this Pacers team and organization. Granger needs to come back healthy and Hibbert and West better start bullying people down low more often. George needs to just continue in the trajectory he’s currently in. This team ain’t half bad, but they still don’t have a superstar like a Carmelo, or a Rose, or a Wade, or a Lebron. In the playoffs these game changers are necessary, remember how Lebron just turned it on to beat these very same Pacers?

  2. Max says:

    The laws of competition have always stated that there will be winners and there will be losers. Well, it’s no surprise that among the 30 basketball teams in the NBA there are the great, the good, there are the bad and there are the ugly. This post is devoted to the ugly. However, these ugly few are a different type of ugly. They are the type of ugly that will soon be beautiful – like the girl with pimples and braces in high-school who turns out to be a sports-illustrated swimsuit model at the time of the 10 year reunion.

    So, let’s break it down… One ugly team at a time. Which team has the brightest future?

    To read more about the futures of the lottery teams in the NBA, go to http://www.nbathroughmyveins.wordpress.com

  3. javi says:

    He only played 5 relatively unimportant games for the Pacers though, right? It’s like the Bulls, and the constant “Rose” talk, except like many other things concerning the Pacers, it doesn’t get as much press. I think the fact the Pacers have made it this far, withOUT Granger, is more of a testament to their chemistry, depth and work ethic. I am a Nuggets fan so I know the feeling too. I like the underdog, and think the Pacers will have extra motivation to succeed without Granger. I’ve been trying to watch Pacers games when I can; I live in Denver and work a lot of hours for DISH, but my DVR is helping a lot. My DISH Game finder (for the Hopper) finds all the games on TV in a matter of seconds; I can set reminders and recordings for upcoming games, and it gives me a chance to save time and watch more basketball!

  4. You should see my expression..... says:

    On a side note…..we did beat them last playoffs and our roster has improved since winning the Championship. If you are a betting man then if I were you I wouldn’t bet against the Heat. First off now that the streak is over our guys can now rest. Second, we have proven that we can win any type of game. Third, they have the ability to turn it up when they need to. AND last but definitely not least we have the best freaking player in the World right now and he wants to win it all again. #Heatonamission

  5. Louie says:

    I disagree peeps, I think the Pacers have a very good shot at taking out the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. As stated in the article they did win the season series and they are going into the playoffs with as much momentum as anybody. The team is clicking and they are winning. I can see them Going up against San Antonio for the NBA Finals.

    • You should see my expression..... says:

      I really must stop reading comments because my IQ drops every time. Dude are you serious…..must not be a real Pacer fan and also must have been living under a rock during the Heat streak. The Pacers haven’t swept the series….HELLO we played them and won back on March 10 at home and final score was 105-91. Did you not hear we beat every team this season. I tell you BANDWAGON fans are the worse…….just like a gold digger who is in search of the dude with the most money and in your case any team that may be able to beat us.

      • bullsfan0218 says:

        Louie said that the pacers won the season series not that they swept it…but maybe you can’t read that well because your I.Q. dropped from reading all these comments

  6. Brd33 says:

    The streak is over. Just like the line from Rocky when he finally staggered the Russian with a solid punch – “See…he’s just human!”. And so is Miami. They were beaten by a depleted Bulls team that played with grit and heart – two things that are foreign to a team and culture who’s fan’s show up late for games and leave early.

    Indiana – take note – lets go 80’s style on Lebron and his little buddies during the playoffs and see if the big bad Heat can handle another physical night of basketball….I’m guessing Miam fold like a cheap tent while whining about the hard fouls….and here I thought “Big Baby” played for the other Florida team LOL!!!

    Indiana and Boston = 80’s style gritty tough basketball who can hold their heads high as playing the game the way it was meant to be played.

    Miami = whining bunch of diva punks who complain when the foul calls don’t go their way. Keep biting your nails LeBrpn but make sure you leave some for the ECF – you’re going to need something to chew on when you’re sitting on the bench late in the game during the blow out that is sure to come. You may have won in a shortened lock out (easy) season but now we’re playing a full season and its “Big Boy” time….no time for whining little kids ha ha

    Miami falls short of the Finals after losing in the ECF – remember you heard it here :-)

    • bullsfan0218 says:

      You’re a genious, all you have to do to beat Miami is play physical ball and they fold like cheap tents. I’m just amazed nobody in the NBA thought of this yet can’t wait to see teams try it in the playoffs. And i agree the heat won in a lockout shortened season so that means it was clearly easier for them then it was for all the other teams that played the same number of games.

  7. That’s really unfortunate for the Pacers…imagine if Granger was with them on the playoffs…but looking on the good side of things, they might not win the title this year, but next year, they would be a serious contender with all of their pieces improving

  8. cesar says:

    easy street again for miami… hehe… bye granger!!

  9. #MedyoBadBoy says:

    “Just how far can these Pacers can go?” I don’t know, but in the meantime, please check your grammar first Mr. Diehard Mavs Fan.