HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When the news broke that the Indiana Pacers would spend at least the first three weeks of the 2013-14 NBA season without Danny Granger (calf injury), the silence was a bit shocking.
Have people forgotten how good a player the former All-Star has been over the course of his career?
But when you have survived and actually thrived without one of your main players (the way the Pacers have without Granger recently), maybe the idea of another three weeks without Granger’s services isn’t a big code red in Indianapolis.
The Pacers made the Eastern Conference semifinals with Granger in the lineup in 2012. They pushed the Miami Heat to a Game 7 in the 2013 Eastern Conference finals without Granger in the lineup.
“This is not a one-man team,” Pacers All-Star Paul George said. “That’s not who we are.”
The Pacers have championship designs for the 2013-14 season, which they kick off tonight in Orlando (7 p.m. ET, League Pass). I’m not arguing for those plans to be put on hold temporarily, at least until they figure out what Granger’s role will be, but it does require some extra attention.
The Pacers disagree, of course. They believe in what’s they’ve built and that the absence of one man, for however long, won’t alter their destiny.
“We have a positive culture, good chemistry and really good guys, who are working every day and we have a chance to win at the highest level,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “It’s indicative of where we are as a franchise and what Larry Bird has built here … everybody wants to know they have a chance to win. And we have a core group of guys in place already that lends itself to a chance to win big.”
Vogel has no doubts that he has a team capable of contending, with or without Granger in the mix. That’s not dismissing the impact Granger can have; it’s simply Vogel’s supreme confidence in the depth, versatility and abilities of his team.
Adding Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland in the offseason to a nucleus that already includes George, David West, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and Lance Stephenson, Vogel’s confidence makes sense. That said, a wild card like Granger can push the Pacers over the top if healthy and prepared to play his role.
From all indications, and my own direct conversation with Granger, he’s ready to do whatever he’s asked to make sure the Pacers stay in the Eastern Conference title chase with Miami, Chicago, New York and Brooklyn.
“There’s no doubt our core group of guys has improved,” said Granger, who was drafted by the Pacers at a time when the core group was in flux. “It’s completely different now. When I first came in I didn’t have David West, a Roy Hibbert, a Paul George, a George Hill. I didn’t even have a Lance Stephenson. So it’s good to see where we are. No single guy on this team has to carry the load alone and that’s what separates us, I think, from some other teams. We base everything on team. We don’t have one single guy that needs to take 20 shots a night. We have too much talent for that. We’re a true team.”
A true team without one of it’s main pieces, yet again, to start this season.