Danny Granger May Make Season Debut on February 13

The Pacers have just two games left before taking six days off for the All-Star break. They hope Danny Granger sees his first action this season on Wednesday against the Bobcats, according to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star.

But Jeremiah Johnson of Fox 59 says that it is more likely that they won’t push it just to get him a few reps before the break, and that Granger is more likely to return after the All-Star Game.

Johnson and Wells seem to be in agreement about that, insinuating that Vogel seems more hopeful than definitive that Danny will play Wednesday.

The Pacers’ first game after the break is against the New York Knicks on February 20.

The rivals are 1-1 against each other this season, so both in terms of bragging rights and playoff seeding, it will be a big game. Compounding the importance of this game, which will be played in Indiana, is that the Pacers head to New York for the two teams’ final matchup of the year on April 14. It will be the 80th game Indiana plays this year in an 82-game season, and the team certainly won’t want to have to win in Madison Square Garden to battle for the all-important two or three seed it wants to have heading into the postseason.

Right now, both teams lead their divisions so if they finish the season with the same record, whoever has the better head-to-head record would get the higher seed. That scenario isn’t overwhelmingly likely, but the Pacers also face Brooklyn and Boston in the final week of the year, so a losing skid to end the season isn’t implausible.

And at this point in the East, if I was a coach, I would rather finish sixth than fourth or fifth. The two teams that finish second and third will avoid the Heat until the Eastern Conference Finals, while the winner of the four/five matchup will have to head to Miami in the second round. If the goal is to make it as far as possible, I would much rather try to beat two of New York, Chicago, Brooklyn or Atlanta without a home-court advantage than be the four seed, have home court in the first round and then fly to Miami for round two.

Maybe that’s just me, and I’m certainly extrapolating this too far; it’s unlikely that a bad Granger return against New York on February 20, even if it does cost them the game, will be what prevents the team from getting the two or three seed. But in the unlikely event that it did play out that way, it sure would be unfortunate if the Pacers lose their final two games to the Knicks (to go 1-3 against them on the year) and then lose a tiebreaker that knocks them down to the fifth seed.

Thus, I understand why Vogel would love to get Granger into the game against the Bobcats for at least a few minutes, if for nothing else than to take some of the pressure off Danny when he presumably makes his first significant contribution in terms of minutes against New York.

Still, health obviously trumps that wish, and that extra six days of non-game rehab couldn’t hurt for a guy who hasn’t stepped on the court yet this season.

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