Caught in the Web Indiana Pacers blog: Shot not falling but Granger, Pacers not worried

Shot not falling but Granger, Pacers not worried

Jan. 19, 2012

The theory is Danny Granger is just a traditional slow-starter, so this is just more of the same.

The facts argue otherwise.

In each of the previous four seasons since he became the team's primary scoring option, Granger has averaged between 18.0 and 24.4 points and shot between .410 and .441 in his first 20 games (17 in 2009-10 before going out with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot).

This is not just a slow start, a guy having a bad week by his standards. He has made half his shots just once in 12 games.

After that game, when he scored 24 points and shot 9-of-16 in a 96-84 victory over Atlanta, here's what Granger had to say:

"It's crazy to make a big deal about my shooting. We're 6-3, 7-3 and everybody's talking about my shooting. We're winning. If I shoot like this all season and we win the championship, is anybody going to say anything about it? No."

In the three games since he has shot 15 of 44 (.341) overall and 1-of-14 (.071) from the 3-point line. He also picked up three technical fouls including one particularly objectionable ejection in Toronto when he was tossed after taunting the Raptors' Ed Davis after blocking his shot. It's evidence of mounting frustration.

Clearly, something's out of whack. But what? And why? Most importantly, how can it be corrected?

Could be his usual offseason conditioning program was disrupted by the lockout. Could be the shortened preseason robbed him of the ability to play himself into rhythm. Most likely, he is struggling mightily with the adjustment to an offense that demands everyone share the ball, including and especially the most gifted scorers.

With the additions of David West and George Hill, the improvement of Roy Hibbert and the emergence of Paul George, the Pacers have a plethora of options and Coach Frank Vogel has installed what amounts to an equal opportunity offense.

"It's just being able to get his stuff without getting his number called every single time down the court," Vogel said. "We're spreading the ball around, we're spreading the calls around and maybe that's part of the adjustment that he has to make.

"But the way we're starting to play, where we just share the ball and everybody plays for each other, I want guys, if they want a shot, I want them to think if we call somebody else's number then they'll get the shot. If they get the call then they become the facilitator, the playmaker, the sharer so that's what we're trying to build."

The adjustment for Granger is the same as Paul Pierce faced when the Celtics added Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett (and ultimately Rajon Rondo). Scoring became less a matter of volume and more a matter of efficiency. Vogel has been preaching that to Granger since taking over the team midway through last season.

"The key is the character of the guy, honestly, if that guy is willing to give up those shots and not worry about it," Boston Coach Doc Rivers said. "You never want to take away shots from a great player no matter how many more you have on your team.

"You want him, when he gets the ball, to take his shots. What you want him to understand is you may not have as many of those shots. When guys accept that, then it's pretty easy to coach."

The funny thing is, if you look beyond the shooting percentage, Granger actually has been playing well -- especially on defense. The opposing starters at small forward have shot 23-of-70 (.328) while averaging 10.9 points in the last seven games.

"I don't have to score 25 points anymore," Granger said. "We have a lot of people that can contribute on the offensive end. It gives me more energy and what-not to do other things and on the defensive end I've been pretty good."

And the Pacers are indeed winning, which really makes you wonder how good they might be once he finds his touch.

"I measure how I play by how many wins we have," Granger said. "I know my shot will fall. I mean, it has for seven years, it's not going to stop now."

Sooner or later, the law of averages will catch up with Granger and his numbers will climb -- and very likely take the Pacers with them.