Jan. 2011: Caught in the Web by Conrad Brunner

Vogel inherits a big challenge but, frankly, he's up to it

Jan. 30, 2011

Taking over an NBA team is a dream a precious few coaches can fulfill.

Except when it's more like a nightmare. Welcome to Frank Vogel's world.

Understand, Vogel will do everything in his power to succeed as the Pacers' interim coach, and he cherishes this opportunity. But he couldn't be less comfortable with the circumstances.

See, Vogel has never sat on an NBA bench next to any other coach but Jim O'Brien. He was with O'Brien in Boston and Philadelphia before rejoining him with the Pacers in 2007.

And so with Sunday's dismissal of O'Brien after three-and-a-half seasons, no playoff berths and a 121-169 record, Vogel moves into the lead chair on the bench for the first time in 14 years in the NBA.


"I'm an emotional mess," said Vogel after the press conference announcing his promotion Sunday at Conseco Fieldhouse. "I'm so excited about this opportunity, I just wish it were under different circumstances. He's like a father figure to me. It's a sad day and a very exciting day at the same time."

Vogel, 37, first encountered O'Brien when the latter was on Rick Pitino's staff at the University of Kentucky in 1996. For the birth of his NBA career in 1997, he rejoined the two in Boston as the Celtics' video coordinator, becoming an assistant coach in 2001.

After O'Brien resigned in January 2004, Vogel became an advance scout for the Lakers (2005-06) and Wizards (2006-07). When the Pacers hired O'Brien, Vogel rejoined his mentor.

Team President Larry Bird made it clear this move was expected to generate results. He expects the Pacers to reach the playoffs, a goal certainly not out of reach for the 17-27 team but one that will take a quick reversal to attain. Indiana has lost 17 of 23, including seven of the last eight.

"Even though he hasn't coached a lot, he's had a lot of experience," said Bird. "We've got good guys. They know what's going on. They'll react to it. …

"I have all the confidence in the world in this young man. He's a basketball coach and he'll get the job done for us."

Nine of the next 12 games are against teams with sub-.500 records to the opportunity for a surge exists.

"I know our players. I know what they need," said Vogel. "I know what their strengths and weaknesses are. I've just got to make some adjustments and try to win each game."

Perhaps the toughest thing to do in coaching, and ultimately the challenge that cost O'Brien, is managing the development of a team's young talent while maintaining the priority on winning. Vogel inherits that challenge, as well as the need to make some schematic and rotation changes on the fly.

And, as he pointed out, "while learning myself on the fly."

We'll all be on that voyage of discovery with him and, frankly, I believe it will be a revelation.

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

Rebound year leads Foster to brink of milestone

Jan. 28, 2011

For a player like Jeff Foster, statistics have less meaning than most. He is most decidedly not a numbers guy, other than the ones in the left-hand column of the NBA standings.

But after a stretch of strong performances, the Pacers' veteran now stands on the brink of a significant milestone: he is 10 rebounds away from 5,000 for his career. The way he's been going lately, he could easily get reach that mark tonight against the New Jersey Nets in Conseco Fieldhouse.

It's fitting in so many ways because this has been a rebound season for Foster.


After missing most of last season due to back surgery, Foster had to show he had regained the ability to play with the reckless disregard for his physical well-being that has marked his career.

Some guys might be able to nurse a few more seasons out of a career by dialing back certain exertions. That's just not in Foster's DNA. Without all-out, there is nothing.

"I think a lot of people wrote me off, but that happens when you're not out there and you're not playing," Foster said. "I've just been fortunate to have a good group of people on the training staff working with me and they were able to get me back to where I can compete at this level."

In the process, the man who ranks fifth in franchise history in rebounds with 4,990 (behind Mel Daniels, Dale Davis, Rik Smits and George McGinnis) and third in offensive boards with 1,980 (behind Davis and Daniels) proved a little something to himself.

"I'm a very prideful person and I felt disappointed in myself," he said. "Last year was the first year I didn't live up to … we're all under contract and I take pride in earning every dollar I make and I felt through no fault of my own it was the first time I didn't do that.

"I felt like it was my responsibility to Larry (Bird) and the Simon family and the Pacers franchise to come back and prove my worth."

That he has. Stepping into a bigger role as Roy Hibbert has struggled, Foster has been his old self the past few weeks. In the last eight games, he has averaged 9.5 rebounds in 23.8 minutes per game.

In the 190 minutes he has been on the floor, the Pacers have outscored opponents by 48 points; in the 194 minutes he has been on the bench, the Pacers have been outscored by 83.

"Jeff's having a very good season," said Coach Jim O'Brien. "The difference from a plus-minus with him on the court versus off the court is dramatic. That speaks volumes to what he's been able to accomplish for us.

"We knew that as he strengthened his core he was going to be fine. He's playing a lot of minutes, he's playing back-to-back games, he's taking charges. He's doing everything we expected him to do."

In the final season of his contract, having just turned 34 last Sunday, might this recent stretch of productivity affect how he views his NBA future?

"I'm still taking the same approach I took at the beginning of the year," Foster said. "I'm just taking it day by day. I think the lockout will have a lot to do with my decision beyond this year. But I enjoy playing, I enjoy being with the guys and playing at this level. It's fun."

Almost as much fun as it has been watching him all these years.

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

Sprained ankle to sideline Rush two weeks

Jan. 27, 2011

Having slipped a notch in the rotation, Brandon Rush will be out of it entirely for the next couple of weeks.

Coach Jim O'Brien said after practice Thursday at Conseco Fieldhouse he expected Rush to miss two weeks with a sprained right ankle. Rush, who limped out of the arena Thursday wearing a protective brace, injured the ankle late in the third quarter of the Pacers' 111-96 loss to the Magic Friday and did not return to the game.

The third-year guard from Kansas has struggled since an early surge, averaging 5.5 points on .407 shooting in the last six games and 8.5 points on .392 shooting in the last 17.

Overall, he is the Pacers' fifth-leading scorer (10.9) and most accurate 3-point shooter (.417).

Rookie Paul George had moved past Rush in the rotation, becoming the first wing off the bench, and has responded well. In Rush's absence, A.J. Price will pick up minutes at both guard positions off the bench.

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

No promises, but playoffs worth believing

Jan. 26, 2011

This wasn't Joe Namath promising a Super Bowl win. This wasn't even Patrick Ewing guaranteeing, well, any of the dozens of wins he guaranteed while with the Knicks.

In fact, it was neither a promise nor a guarantee.

When Jim O'Brien said, "I think we'll make the playoffs," in response to my question Tuesday after practice about what to expect the rest of the season, it was the studied and measured opinion of a coach that believes in his team (talk-show listeners, please resist the temptation to mentally cue Jim Mora).

Some have interpreted his recent shift toward a younger lineup and rotation as a sign the Pacers are more interested in developing their prospects than winning now. Do not misunderstand. O'Brien's job is to win while developing, a challenging balance to maintain.

"I think our team will hit a very nice stride," he said. "We're a half-game out of a playoff spot right now. We're acclimating a guy who's virtually a rookie in Tyler Hansbrough at the power forward spot. D.C. (Darren Collison) is a new point guard and I think he'll hit a tremendous stride. Paul George is coming on in the last five games. I think these guys will find their stride.

"I think being a half-game out of the playoff race at the halfway point is not a bad place to be."

It could be better, to be sure. And it will need to get better soon.

Of the 15 games before the Feb. 24 trading deadline, 10 are against teams with sub-.500 records. The Pacers will identify themselves in that stretch: either the players will take this playoff thing seriously and get down to business, or they will continue to struggle to find their way.

This opportunity is not to be taken lightly, nor the challenge of the schedule they have just traversed. While they have lost 18 of their last 25, just five of those defeats were at the hands of sub-.500 teams.

To have been through two bad months and still be in the thick of the playoff race is remarkable.

"It's a blessing, honestly," said Danny Granger. "As bad as we've played, we're only a half-game out of the playoffs so there's definitely room for us to improve and hopefully we can sneak in there."

The coach believes.

Frankly, so do I. Are any two of the teams the Pacers are currently battling – Philadelphia, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Detroit – better, more deserving or more interested in reaching the postseason than Indiana?

Ultimately, what matters most is what the players themselves believe. And we should get a pretty good idea of that soon enough.

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

A green light waiting at the intersection of possibility and reality

Jan. 24, 2011


(From L) Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Granger, Darren Collison, Roy Hibbert, Paul George. (NBAE/Getty Images)
Take a long look at the picture on the right, because it is the future.

And it's coming soon.

As the Pacers reach the midpoint of the 2010-11 season, they clearly are not where they hoped. With a 16-25 record, Indiana is tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference, one of five tightly bunched teams separated by just 2½ games competing for the final two playoff berths.

And there they are: a rookie (Paul George), two second-year players (Darren Collison and Tyler Hansbrough), a third-year center (Roy Hibbert) and Danny Granger, the relative senior citizen of the bunch at the ripe old age of 27.

Four of the five presently are starting. George isn't in the lineup yet but appears headed in that direction. He started the second half in Denver Sunday night, which doesn't necessarily mean he's about to be promoted, but neither does it discourage the discussion.

George's productivity since his return to the rotation has been impressive (8.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, .569 shooting in 14.7 minutes in the last 11 games) while both of the starters at the wing position opposite Granger (Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy) have been erratic, and neither has made a move to lock down the job.

Hansbrough, the newest member of the lineup, also has had his share of impressive moments, including the career-high 27 points and 10 rebounds in Denver. He has averaged 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 23.4 minutes since becoming a starter nine games ago.

I'm not sure if a team with a lineup so young can make the playoffs. I am sure, looking to the near and long terms, those five represent the best the Pacers have to offer and it's imperative to begin to find out just what that means.

This has been a wildly, maddeningly inconsistent team. Some nights, it's turnovers. Some nights, it's rebounding. Some nights, it's offense. Some nights, it's defense. Every night, it seems, it's something different.

That is the trademark of youth: to tease with possibility and frustrate with reality.

But one day in the not-too-distant future, the Pacers will reach the intersection of possibility and reality. From what I've seen, there's a green light waiting.

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

Josh can dunk -- and he can act a little

Jan. 21, 2011

Of course, Josh McRoberts can dunk.

That's really point of the promotional campaign, "Josh Can't Dunk." The brainchild of a friend of McRoberts' from his days in Portland, Taylor Twist, the campaign hopes to build public support for McRoberts' participation in the NBA Slam-Dunk contest.

The heart of the campaign is an article in Dime Magazine and a Web site (JoshCantDunk.com) featuring a video produced by Twist and friends starring McRoberts and Brandon Rush in a scene that parodies the 1992 movie "White Men Can't Jump."


McRoberts, of course, plays the Woody Harrelson roll (Billy Hoyle), with Rush standing in for Wesley Snipes (Sidney Deane). There is, alas, no Rozie Perez character.

"A few of my friends wanted to do it and did the video," said McRoberts. "Even though it's probably too late to actually get in it, they put so much time and effort into it, it was like, 'Well, we have it, we might was well put it out there for people to see.' "

For both McRoberts and Rush, the video offered the opportunity for personal departure. McRoberts is not a self-promoter and wasn't comfortable with that aspect of the campaign but wanted to support his friends.

"It was like an hour for me to do after practice one day," he said. "For them, they put a lot of time and effort into everything. It's not really my style but I can't let those guys down."

For Rush, one of the quietest and least-quoted players on the team, the chance to be a little more vocal and outgoing was too much to resist.

"I was able to have a lot of fun with it," said Rush. "That's the point of acting, to be out of your element and do stuff like that."

Of course, the ultimate goal of the campaign was to land McRoberts in the dunk contest but that is not to be. The NBA announced the participants (Blake Griffin of the Clippers, Brandon Jennings of Milwaukee, JaVale McGee of Washington and Serge Ibaka of Oklahoma City) shortly before "Josh Can't Dunk" went public.

Though Jennings subsequently was forced to withdraw due to injury, the NBA replaced him with DeMar DeRozan of Toronto.

"It would be a cool experience but at the same time I'm not going to go crazy trying to get in," McRoberts said. "I'm not trying incite anything by having a Web site. It's just something we're having a good time with."

Of course, there might be another byproduct of the video for the co-star.

"Maybe I can get an acting career after basketball," said Rush with a smile. "That's what I'm hoping."

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

Stanko having breakout year in Euroleague

Jan. 19, 2011

The Pacers knew this would be an important year in the development of European prospect Stanko Barac. But it looks like the blossoming big man is exceeding expectations.

Barac has earned high praise in the European media for his performance with Caja Laboral (in Vitoria, Spain) and is now considered one of the top prospects in the EuroLeague.

"Long considered a promising center prospect, the pressure was on this year as Barac was inserted into the starting lineup," wrote Euroleague.net on Jan. 12. "But if there were questions, Barac answered them quickly and emphatically. Barac, 24, has posted some of the best statistics in the competition and was a rock in the middle for Laboral as it rallied from a rare losing streak to reach the Top 16 as one of the hottest teams around!"

The 7-1 Barac, 24, was drafted No. 39 overall by Miami in the 2007 NBA Draft and acquired by the Pacers in exchange for an '09 second-rounder. In his first full season starting in Euroleague competition, he was the only player to rank in the top 10 in scoring (14.1), rebounding (6.7) and blocked shots (1.3).

Barac was also the subject of a recent feature by Netscoutsbasketball.com, which described him as "a big-man with legit size for the NBA, good lower-body strength and shot-blocking ability to fight the athletes that attack the rim in North America. He has good shooting ability to hit long-twos in pick-and-pop sets and good passing skills of the post."

Sounds like Barac just might turn out to be worth the wait.

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

Granger, Hibbert try to find what they lost on the road

Jan. 16, 2011

The last time the Pacers had a four-game Western Conference road trip, Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert left something behind.

As the Pacers head out for their second – and last – four-game jaunt out West, the Pacers have much to gain if their two best players can find whatever they lost.

As with the first trip, this one begins in Los Angeles, with a Martin Luther King Monday matinee against the Clippers (3:45 p.m., WIBC 93 FM). The Pacers opened their last trip with an upset of the Lakers fueled by Hibbert's 24 points and 12 rebounds. They followed that up with a win in Sacramento as Granger scored a season-high 37 points.

At that point, the Pacers were 9-7 and Granger was averaging 22.7 points, shooting .452 overall and .417 from the arc. He had 10 games of at least 20 points, including four of at least 30.

Hibbert was averaging 16.1 points and 9.5 rebounds, shooting .488 from the field and was considered the early leader for the Most Improved Player award. He had seven double-doubles.

But then they suddenly, mysteriously, lost their way, dropping 14 of 21 games after that encouraging start.

Granger has averaged 19.4 points and shot .393 overall and .333 from the 3-point line in that span, with just eight games of 20-plus points including one of 30.

Hibbert has dropped to 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and .395 shooting with four double-doubles.

"Our offensive struggles," said Granger, "have been well-documented, to say the least."

This trip, then is about much more than grabbing a couple of victories and preserving playoff positioning. It's about getting their best players back on track so the Pacers can get on with business.

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

Collison emerging as dynamic force

Jan. 12, 2011

With more room to operate in the small lineup and a productive pick-and-roll partner in Tyler Hansbrough, Darren Collison is starting to emerge as the dynamic force we've all been anticipating.

Consider his productivity in the Pacers' back-to-back wins over Philadelphia and Dallas: 38 points, 17 assists, six steals, three turnovers and 14-of-24 shooting (.583). And this against two tough matchups, his former UCLA teammate Jrue Holiday and one of the best of all-time, Jason Kidd.

If the Pacers are starting to turn the corner offensively – and consecutive games over 100 points for the first time since November are a pretty strong indicator in the affirmative – Collison has been a key figure with his obvious comfort with the small lineup.

"I think it has a lot to do with spacing the court," said Jim O'Brien. "In both Danny (Granger)'s case and Darren's case, when you have 3-point shooters around all of them then I think their productivity is going to increase. In the period of time we've been running the small lineup we've gotten very, very fine productivity out of that small lineup."

Hansbrough's presence in the starting lineup has been a big help, as well, because his ability to hit the mid-range jumper makes the pick-and-pop a major weapon. The strength of Collison's game is the pick-and-roll game and Hansbrough has helped that rise to the surface.

"We've been playing more and more pick-and-rolls lately," said Collison, "and when Tyler is hitting that 15-footer, it makes it a lot easier for myself and for everybody else because the other team's got to pick one."

With Collison emerging and Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy showing signs of regaining their rhythms, the offense just might be well on the way back.

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

Job secure, Price feels good about future

Jan. 10, 2011

It really was not an issue for A.J. Price, but a young guy stuck on the bench while trying to carve out a niche in the NBA doesn't need anything else to worry about.

The first two weeks of January are a nervous time for players without guaranteed contracts because, until today, they can be freely released with no further compensation. But come Jan. 10, anyone on an NBA roster – other than players on 10-day contracts – become fully guaranteed for the rest of the season.

As the only player on the Pacers roster without a guaranteed deal, Price was in the same category as Brian Skinner (Bucks), Ime Udoka (Spurs), Ronald DuPree (Raptors), Damien Wilkins (Hawks) and Steve Novak (Mavericks) – all released last week so their respective teams could save a few bucks and/or open a roster spot.

"You try not to think about it," Price said. "You want to be secure and understand, hopefully, that you're good but at the same time understand anything can happen. I just try to come in here with the same approach I've been having and hopefully the front office has the same faith in me.

"But I'll feel much better when (Jan. 10) is over."

Inactive most of the season because of the depth at point guard, Price might begin to pick up more playing time. Coach Jim O'Brien said recently he intends to have either Price or rookie Lance Stephenson active for most games moving forward, filling a potential need created by his deployment of a small lineup.

When he has played, Price generally has performed well. He played three in a row in mid-November and totaled 45 minutes, 25 points and nine assists. The rest of the season has offered only scattered appearances totaling 22 minutes.

But the 2009 second-round pick from Connecticut, whose future with the Pacers appeared in jeopardy when he injured his knee in an offseason charity game, has bounced back well and appears very much a part of the team's future.

"A.J. is a very skilled guy," said O'Brien. "I have a lot of confidence in him. We have a numbers game that's a problem right now that's not going to affect his contract. T.J. (Ford) is not going to be here forever and in Darren (Collison), A.J. and Lance, we feel we have three very promising young point guards.

"Him being inactive as much as he is is no reflection on what he brings to the team. … At some point in time, his patience will be rewarded."

For now, the reward is a job, and a paycheck, the rest of the season.

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

Youth movement about this season -- and next

Jan. 7, 2011

Do not misunderstand Jim O'Brien's intentions here.

Putting Tyler Hansbrough in the starting lineup and activating Lance Stephenson for the first time all season on the heels of Paul George's promotion to the regular rotation might well constitute a youth movement – but not the kind that means the Pacers are playing for next season.

As was in evidence Friday against the Spurs, they're still very much engaged in 2010-11. Though they lost a gut-buster, 90-87, Hansbrough had a huge night with 23 points and 12 rebounds and the team's overall energy and productivity was way up – at least until the Spurs pulled out the defensive shackles and locked everything down in the final 13½ minutes to wipe out Indiana's 15-point lead.

"This has nothing to do, zero percent, with anything but giving our team the best chance of winning," O'Brien said. "However you want to phrase it, as long as I've been here I've taken knocks for wanting to win every basketball game. That's exactly where I am. I'll never change at all.

"What we're dealing with, when you look at the guys we're playing with, is we're getting very poor production from our front line. To go through a month like we just went through in December and not be open to changing some things up would be a mistake and a little bit hard-headed."

It's not as if the young guys are pushing key veterans out of the rotation. Solomon Jones, who was impressive for awhile but faded badly last month, was inactive Friday. Hansbrough replaced McRoberts, another young player, so not much of an experience gap there. George is picking up minutes because of the return of the small lineup.

O'Brien said before the game A.J. Price could return to the mix more regularly, as well, that either he or Stephenson would be active most nights.

Can a team really get better by getting younger? Given the talent level and hunger of the Pacers' burgeoning group of young players, it certainly seems worth a shot.

Comment in the Pacers Fan Forum | Follow Bruno on Twitter

Hansbrough gets chance in starting lineup

Jan. 6, 2011

So much for the small lineup meaning less playing time for Tyler Hansbrough.

Coach Jim O'Brien said after practice today Hansbrough will start at power forward when the Pacers host the San Antonio Spurs Friday in Conseco Fieldhouse. It will be the first start of the season and second of his young career for Hansbrough.

"It's a chance to go out there and try to help the team," Hansbrough said. "I'm just going to go out there and try to play my game. I'm not going to go out there to try to be impressive or play over my head. I just want to help us win."

O'Brien is seeking improved productivity from the power forward position. Josh McRoberts has started 29 games, averaging 6.4 points and 5.5 rebounds in 21.9 minutes. Hansbrough has appeared in 22 games off the bench, averaging 12.9 minutes, 5.0 points and 3.3 rebounds.

"Nobody's doing horribly, we're just not scoring, we're not getting to the foul line," said O'Brien. "Josh is doing a decent enough job but we're not getting the production I need up front. It's not just the (power forward) spot but I'm sticking with Roy (Hibbert) forever. I mean, he's our center.

"So I want to see how Tyler does from a starting job. Josh can be used at the five or the four. We're going more to a small lineup so I want to find out what my best combination is up front. When Tyler has been in the game he hasn't always been with our starting center and I want to see how he does with our starting center, (see) if we can't get more production out of that position."

Hansbrough said he feels comfortable next to Hibbert but that it may take time to develop on-court chemistry with the first-unit perimeter players.

"Roy's one of the guys I feel comfortable with because I played in summer league a couple of years ago and we practice a lot together," Hansbrough said. "The main thing is playing with Danny (Granger) and Mike (Dunleavy) and Darren (Collison). I haven't gotten a lot of run with those guys, so I'm more concerned about that."

Just how long a look Hansbrough will get in the starting lineup remains to be seen but at least he is getting this look.

"I'm just happy to be out there," he said, "and we'll go from there."


What's the big deal about the small lineup?

Jan. 5, 2011

There is much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, at least in the world of talk radio and fan forums, about Jim O'Brien's decision to begin employing a small lineup.

Frankly, I'm not sure what the fuss is all about. He didn't say he was going to start a small lineup every game – although he probably will on occasion when matchups dictate – but rather he would begin using that group on a more regular basis.

To which I must say: How is this a big deal?

The small lineup was a major option last season. In fact, the Pacers were 5-5 when they started Danny Granger at power forward with Roy Hibbert at center. That may not sound like much until you consider they were 27-45 with all other combinations.

The only surprise is JOB waited this long to pull this particular arrow out of the quiver. He has shown admirable commitment to the McRoberts/Hibbert combination, even as both have struggled to produce.

And here's another stat to consider: the Pacers' starting lineups have been outscored in 12 consecutive games by an average of 11 points. In that span, the starters combined to average just 60 points per game.

It's pretty clear, then, something had to be done and going small plays to the strength of the roster -- depth and talent at the wing positions.

Though it probably means fewer minutes for Tyler Hansbrough, the small lineup creates much greater opportunity for Paul George and maybe even Lance Stephenson.

No matter what combination the coach uses, somebody's going to be left out and fans of that player (or players) are going to complain.

Ultimately, all that matters is the result. And JOB has good reasons to believe the small lineup will shake the Pacers out of their offensive funk.


Dr. Bruno examines Granger by the numbers

Jan. 4, 2011

For the first four seasons of his career, Danny Granger was on a stunningly steep trajectory, rising from 7.5 points per game as a rookie to 25.8 in his fourth season.

The past couple of years, however, he has come back to Earth a bit.

His scoring average has dipped (to 21.1). His shooting percentage (.416) would be the lowest of his career. His 3-point percentage (.359) is the lowest since his rookie season.

What gives?

Frankly, it's a bit of a mystery. He's been healthier this year than either of the previous two, when he missed a total of 35 games. There have been no sea changes in on-court structure: same coach, same system (albeit some different teammates).

Let's discount the "he's tired from a summer of international competition" theory right away because, much to his chagrin, Granger didn't play enough for fatigue to be a factor. And he should've been over any residual jet lag long ago.

Looks like it's time for Dr. Bruno to don the statistical stethoscope and analyze this very important patient.

    The stat: The Pacers are 3-14 when Granger shoots less than 40 percent.
    What it means: To borrow a fantasy baseball term, .400 is Granger's Mendoza Line. When he's above it, the team has been very good (11-3). It's no surprise, conversely, the Pacers struggle when Granger shoots poorly. What jumps off the page, however, is Granger has been below his Mendoza Line in more than half the team's games.
    The solution: More attacking, less settling, seems to be in order. Remember that 8-of-12 game against the Wizards? Seven of his eight buckets were layups as he attacked the bucket with a passion. Of course, he also committed three offensive fouls in that game, limiting his minutes, but if he establishes a more aggressive mindset the occasional charge should be offset by more trips to the line.

    The stat: In wins, Granger averaged 24.5 points, shoots .496 overall and .495 from the 3-point line. In losses, Granger averages 18.4 points, shoots .350 overall and .226 from the 3-point line.
    What it means: As Granger goes, so go the Pacers.
    The solution: The evolution of a true No. 2 offensive threat is paramount, because every Batman needs a Robin. Early on, it looked as if Roy Hibbert would be the guy but not so much at the moment. Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy can pop the 20-plus games every once in a while but neither is consistent enough to alter opposing coaches' game plans. If Hibbert doesn't bounce back, the guy most capable of stepping into a much bigger role looks to be Darren Collison.

Understand, I am not a basketball doctor, but I play one on the Internet.

But I do know this much: in basketball, as in medicine, coming up the cure is usually a lot tougher than identifying the symptoms.