Granger's Injury Changes Pacers' Season Outlook
by Scott Agness
November 7, 2012
In the offseason, it was all about continuity for the Indiana Pacers. The entire coaching staff remained intact and team officials re-signed Roy Hibbert and George Hill to do the same with the starting lineup.
In training camp, that all changed as Danny Granger was limited and missed most of the preseason with soreness in his left knee.
Now, the plan has to be scrapped altogether with the news of Granger missing approximately three months after having an injection in his knee Tuesday to treat left patellar tendinosis. The good news is they found a treatment worth trying. The worst thing, in this case, would be no resolution at all and Granger either wouldn't be able to play again at a high level or he'd have to fight through the pain for the rest of his career.
Missing time is unusual for Granger. He played in more than 94 percent of games in five of his first seven seasons and had only missed 49 total regular season games prior to this season.
In training camp, though, Granger described the injury as a different kind of soreness than you'd expect, where he "has to stress through it." He had to figure out his physical limitations with the knee, but soon found he couldn't jump off his injured left leg. Even while playing restricted minutes in two preseason games, it became clear by the pain on his face during the second game against Chicago that the problem wasn't resolved. The knee needed more than rest and treatment to heal.
If Granger is out three months like the team's medical staff expects, that would mean a February return, where the Pacers play nine of 11 games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Depending on how his knee is feeling, they could even hold him out until after the All-Star break and have him for the second-half of the season beginning on February 20th.
When the team takes the court without Granger, their confidence takes a hit. He's the longest-tenured Pacers player and, as the second-oldest player behind David West, he's a leader—whether he likes it or not. Granger's teammates are accustomed to him being on the court, shooting 15 shots a game and attracting the opponent's best defender.
To fill the gap created by Granger's absence, if the first four games of the season are an indication of things to come, his spot is going to be filled by committee. Gerald Green started in Granger's spot the first three games, but came off the bench Monday in San Antonio. Sam Young started the San Antonio game and has averaged 2.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in 10 minutes a night. Third-year guard Lance Stephenson has filled in nicely as well.
Stephenson likely has the most to gain while Granger is out. When Granger is healthy, Stephenson slips even further down the depth chart, limiting his potential for minutes. However, with the new-found opportunity to play, he has shown signs of life that most didn't know he had, except Larry Bird of course. Stephenson has played aggressive, inspired ball. It's allowed him to log minutes at critical times in games, most recently in a double-overtime win at home against the Kings.
Granger's absence is also an ideal time for Paul George to take his game to the next level. His workload increased from the season's outset, averaging 40 minutes per game (10 more than last season) and is on the floor more than any other Pacers player. So the opportunity is there, now his production—particularly on offense—must follow suit.
The Pacers were fortunate not to have any real injury setbacks last season. This year, however, they were hit before games even resumed. With Granger out until February, the plan of continuity is out the door.
Making the playoffs is still very realistic for the Pacers, but the fight with the Rose-less Bulls for the division crown just got tougher.
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