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Better Than Expected First Practice for Granger

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

September 28, 2013

Danny Granger and the rest of the Indiana Pacers hit the practice court for the first time Saturday morning, marking the official start of training camp. Granger can be a huge addition to last year’s core that went all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

After missing most of last year, Granger has a renewed attitude and excitement towards the new season. Following the first practice, he was encouraged – and as confident as we have seen him over the last 12 months – by his performance.

“For me, it went honestly better than I expected,” the All-Star forward said. “I felt great.

“I went through the whole practice. I did all the sprints. I played the whole time. I didn’t have to sit out or anything so I definitely can feel (my conditioning) coming back.”

A smile appears on the face of head coach Frank Vogel each time he discusses Granger’s on-court performance. When he’s on the floor, he spreads the defense out and can provide the Pacers with a real boost. Vogel said Granger had a good practice, made a lot of shots and even defended well.

“I didn’t see any limitations at all,” he said. “He just looked like Danny Granger. Not like last year’s Danny Granger where he was struggling to push off on certain plays. He looked like two years ago Danny Granger.”

There were more than a dozen observers (team officials and scouts) in the bleachers of the practice floor looking on, with a lot of interest on Granger’s showing. One observer said Granger hit two straight 3-pointers as his white team, consisting of C.J. Watson, Orlando Johnson, Luis Scola and Ian Mahinmi, won the scrimmage 15-4.

To start practice, Lance Stephenson started with the first team and Granger suited up with the second unit – the white team – but there’s nothing to it, says coach Vogel.

"There's nothing to be read into that,” he said. “This is the final phase of Danny Granger's recovery – enduring the workload of a training camp. We're going to monitor how he does in terms of being able to get fully back."

Playing on the second unit allowed Paul George and Granger to square off on both ends.

“It’s always fun,” George said of the matchup. “Coming in here my rookie year, I always was taking a beating from Danny so it’s fun to kind of dish out a little bit.”

When told that George enjoyed “dishing it out,” Granger smiled and said, “No comment.”

“Danny looked good,” George continued. “At one point, Danny was the same Danny that’s been an All-Star. He looked real well out there. … Danny was a strength for today for the second unit.”

After being on the sideline for most of last year, Granger has found a positive. He says he’s refreshed, both mentally and physically.

“Having the year off to let my knee heal, also helps the rest of your body, too,” he said. “The rest of my body feels kind of good actually. I’m still obviously battling my knee, but the rest of my body feels great.”

And his previous struggle to push off his left knee?

“That’s gone,” he said. “It’s more so building up the endurance in the knee.”

The team’s medical staff has Granger, along with a handful of other players, wearing a high-tech workload monitor. They have a pre-determined number in mind that they want to keep Granger at so that will ultimately determine his workload each day.

By league rule, teams are allowed just one contact practice per day so they’ll come back early Saturday night to work on shooting, conditioning and the offense without defenders.

The team is having two-a-days on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, and that is it. They’ll practice once on Monday.

Conversation with Scola

Once practice concluded, around 1:30 p.m., some guys were getting more shots up while others talked to the media. Luis Scola plopped down on the sidelines to observe what was going on.

Vogel then walked over to him, sat down, and the two had a conversation that lasted more than 10 minutes.

“I went over to talk to him because I respect his mind,” Vogel explained. “Anybody that knows how to play the game the way he knows how to play the game – obviously has a great basketball IQ – I’m told him that I want to hear what he’s thinking every single day because I think he can help our group intelligence.”

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