Granger Hoping to Silence Skeptics

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by Mark Montieth |

October 4, 2013

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Soon, if things continue to go according to plan, the assembly line of questions about his knee will fade and Danny Granger can just talk about basketball. Saturday night, in fact, could go a long way toward silencing the doubters who didn't think he'd ever make it back, and shifting the focus from if to when he'll be something resembling 100 percent again.

Granger, who had knee surgery on April 4, will come off the bench and play about half of tonight's opening pre-season game against Chicago at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, a game that also will feature the return of Bulls guard Derrick Rose from a knee injury. Granger played five games last season, the final one against the Bulls on March 3. Rose hasn't played in 18 months. Their mutual return for contending teams makes this perhaps the most notable game of the entire NBA preseason schedule.

“We're treating this like a real game,” Paul George said.

It's certainly real for Granger and Rose, who will test their knees for the first time in something more than a practice scrimmage. Granger, for one, exudes confidence, having withstood the rigors of 10 practices already. Playing about half of a game, as he's scheduled to do tonight, should be easier than enduring a practice, and so far he's experienced no setbacks there.

“I'm progressing really, really well,” he said.

“We're approaching the point where workload won't be an issue. We're not there yet, but we're right on schedule.”

Granger said he expects to be 100 percent by the halfway point of the eight-game preseason schedule. Until then, the only notable limitations he expects to encounter are in his head. The final step is to prove to himself that he can play again, and the only way to do that is to play a few games.

“In your mind, you have to believe it,” he said. “That just comes with time. The mental things go away as you play more, and instinct takes over. You're out there thinking, I'm playing, I'm playing, I make a move and, 'Oh! that was actually better than I thought it was going to be.' That's one hurdle you've got past and then it's on to the next one.”

Granger receives no post-practice treatment on the knee beyond the standard procedures all players get, and he expects no special treatment from opponents, either, although it's customary in the NBA for teams to challenge players coming off an injury to see if there's a weakness to be exploited.

“They can test me all they want, I'll be ready,” he said.

Granger said his defense is ahead of his offense, as he works to get his timing back. That was evident in Friday's end-of-practice scrimmage, when, unofficially, he hit 2-of-6 shots and scored seven points.

“I can move my feet pretty well,” he said. “I've been able to slide and stay in front of people better than I expected. My offense will come, but in training camp you get tired and your jump shot disappears sometimes.”

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Granger's role off the bench, with Lance Stephenson starting, isn't necessarily an indication of things to come. In fact, he indicated there's been some discussion among the coaches of starting rookie Solomon Hill and bringing both Granger and Stephenson off the bench.

“That's been talked about,” Vogel said. “That's my job to figure it out.”

If Granger, however, recaptures his level of play before his knee injury, the decision becomes simple.

“If Danny becomes an All-Star caliber player again, then he and Paul are our wings – starting,” Vogel said.

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