Danny Granger will be on the court against the Houston Rockets. That’s all we need to say really. This team is good enough to win an NBA title without its one-time start. But if he can return and become even 75% of the potent scorer he once was? Well, they have to become the favorite for the championship.
The team has obviously been very cautious about bringing him back. Perhaps that was because Indiana got off to such a scorching start and perhaps it was more to do with simply ensuring that he was fully ready to go. I’m sure both factors affected decision making.
Regardless, he will suit up tonight, and according to Scott Agness of Pacers.com, coach Frank Vogel plans to give him significant minutes, perhaps upwards of 20 (depending on game circumstances and Granger’s play, I presume). And this will be the plan for awhile, perhaps up to four weeks, before Granger “return(s) to form.”
Granger to play 15-20 minutes in his season debut vs Houston (with video) http://t.co/cCIAKnbZFK
— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) December 19, 2013
Vogel said Granger has to take this period, probably the next 3-4wks, where he’s gonna try to return to form” in terms of rhythm, timing.
— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) December 20, 2013
With Granger’s activation, rookie Solomon Hill moves to street clothes and Orlando Johnson presumably falls even further out of the rotation. Rasual Butler, who is shooting 11-for 18 (61.1%) from the field and 8-for-13 (61.5%) from three-land, had already taken Johnson’s minutes in recent games, so it will be interesting to see if he still gets any minutes. I can envision Granger subbing in for Paul George to start the second quarter in some games and if he doesn’t perform then perhaps Butler gets the next shot at spelling George. Lance Stephenson, who is second behind George (37.1 mpg) in minutes per game with 35.0 per night, could also get an extra minute or two of rest here and there no that Vogel has more options.
No matter how it breaks down, this is nothing but splendid news. Because for those who forgot, or just don’t know — and given the recent attendance and viewership spikes, I know some of you are out there — Danny Granger was a helluva basketball player when he was healthy.
I still considered him the best player on the roster as recently as the last playoff series he played in, when Indiana got bounced by Miami in the second round in 2012. It was Granger who was the firey team leader as Paul George was still merely an inconsistent offensive player who focused on locking up the other team’s best scorer and Roy Hibbert still put up no-shows while providing only an inkling of the game-changing defense he now does.
Personally, I’m guessing Granger’s best is behind him. But I still expect him to be a knockdown shooter who turns into the most dangerous threat on the court for eight minutes at a time. He likely won’t be great tonight and perhaps will take some time to have a serious impact. But he will have a few nights where his shooting is the x-factor even in the near term and, health-permitting, I expect that he will be a key reason that the Pacers’ have one of the league’s best benches after the All-Star break.
UPDATE: Query and Schultz of 1260 WNDE radio fame devised this song to welcome Danny back.
It’s quite wonderful.