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Granger: We Really Are Title Contenders Now

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

September 19, 2013

The last 15 months have been difficult for Pacers forward Danny Granger. Ever since the 2012 playoffs against Miami when he first injured his left knee, Granger has been doing everything possible to get back to 100 percent and to where that knee no longer keeps him sidelined.

He first tried a platelet-rich plasma injection, then a different injection from world-renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who then later performed surgery on Granger’s knee on April 4. Granger was diagnosed with patellar tendinosis and is doing whatever he can to get back on the court.

How he’s doing? Well, he wouldn’t speak to his mending left knee or his rehab during a sit-down interview on Wednesday. However, ask about the offseason moves made by Pacers officials – signing C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland and trading for Luis Scola – and Granger lights up in excitement.

“It’s really encouraging,” he said. “They kinda see the potential that this group has and I think we’re really going for it. We really are title contenders now and we have to show it.

“I think [Scola’s] probably our biggest free agent pickup. In my mind, he’s a starting power forward in the NBA and I don’t know how we pulled him off and how we got him but we did. I think that’s the brilliance of Donnie [Walsh] and Larry [Bird].”

With a half-dozen new faces, the Pacers will take full advantage of opening training camp a few days before most teams and spending plenty of hours together while traveling to the Philippines and Taiwan for a pair of preseason games.

“I think maybe three or four years ago we went to Taiwan as a team and that was a great team building experience,” Granger said. “I think this trip, with so many new guys, it’ll have a similar effect. It’ll really bring some camaraderie to the guys.”

As for Granger, the first question everyone wants to know is how he’s feeling and what he’ll be able to contribute. All he offered up: “I’m good. I’m doing good. I’m doing great.”

Then, the questions turn to where does he see himself fit with Lance Stephenson, who stepped up mightily in his place last season.

“I just want to play first,” said Granger. “I got to make sure I’m playing, that’s where I fit in.”

Should all go well, Granger will be back on the floor playing alongside All-Star Paul George, the new face of the team. That’s something they both look forward to, particularly Granger because young George makes the game easier for him.

“He takes a lot of the pressure away from me,” Granger admitted. “I’ve carried a lot of it for so many years and I’m older now, I’m 30, and I tell Paul and George and all them, ‘Man, when I was ya’ll age.’ It takes a lot of pressure off of me. He can create and do his things. And Paul, he’s on his way.”

This last year-plus has been trying on Granger, as his knee has kept him from doing what he loves. There are always positive takeaways, and in this instance it’s gaining wisdom watching from the bench and being able to spend time with his family.

"I got a set of twins and they’re 14 months, so we’re really in the prime time of their growing period,” Granger said. “It was a lot of fun. They take up all my time and that’s all I’ve been doing. Once you have kids, everything else doesn’t really matter.”

Unlike previous summers, Granger has spent most of his offseason in Indianapolis so that he could be around team trainers every day for rehab and doctors as needed. He hung around the Summer League team, which placed third in Orlando, and helped coordinate an unofficial team event in Los Angeles last month for workouts and team bonding.

Week-by-week, Granger has increased his workload on the court. Initially, it was just shooting and then he started doing more jumping exercises. He’s gotten to the point now where he’s active on the floor and taking part in full-court scrimmages, according to sources.

Additional time in Indy has also allowed Granger to familiarize himself with the two new coaches, Nate McMillan and Popeye Jones. Granger says the philosophy will remain the same, but getting comfortable with each other and gaining that chemistry will be critical for the season that lies ahead.

The Pacers return all five starters and are planning to finally have Granger back and ready to contribute. Combine that with the offseason moves, the return of Larry Bird and a well-respected coaching staff, it’s clear that the Pacers have their eye on the prize.

“There’s no more ‘Wait and let’s try to do this’ and ‘Wait, let’s try to get better and make a move here.’” Granger said. “I think we have all the pieces, we just have to put them all together and go attack it.”

Training camp opens at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sept. 28.

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