by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness
December 10, 2013
Pacers swingman Danny Granger said there’s a “very good chance” that he makes his season debut Friday against the Charlotte Bobcats at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Speaking to reporters after shootaround, Granger indicated that he should be back for game action, “very, very soon,” but right now he’s spending his time getting back into shape.
Granger missed all but five games last season due to a left knee injury. Amidst the process of getting back in the mix during preseason, Granger strained his left calf and it’s caused him to be out nearly two months.
“The knee is not an issue at all,” he said. “A week ago it was the calf, but the calf is pretty good now. I’m pretty much over that. Now, it’s just conditioning.”
Granger resumed practicing with the team in San Antonio on Dec. 7. That’s important, because coach Frank Vogel has said numerous times that Granger wouldn’t resume activity until he’s pain free. He has fully participated in the three shootarounds since, including today’s. The team hasn’t officially announced a timeline for his return, keeping the pressure off Granger.
Following Tuesday’s shootaround, where the Pacers prepared for their first matchup of the season against the Miami Heat, Granger worked with assistant coach Popeye Jones for more than 45 minutes. He put shots up coming around a screen, off the dribble and against Jones in the post. One drill, he fired a 3-pointer, back-peddled halfway down the floor, then got the ball outside the arc and let the ball fly after one dribble around a screen.
While he hasn’t participated on the court since re-aggravating his calf injury on Oct. 18, Granger would often watch practice while riding an elliptical. He also made a point to keep getting shots up. His heavy breathing on Tuesday, however, made it clear that his conditioning needed work.
“My wind, my legs,” Granger said of what he’s working on. “What I’m doing now is a lot of individual stuff. A lot of running, a lot game-speed moves.
“My shot feels great, it’s the other things that I need to work on. After you make three or four moves, and your legs got a little tired and then getting up to your jump shot.”
With the rash of injuries around the league, one specifically within the division cautioned Granger to go at his own pace.
“It’s just one of those things you got to take in stride,” he said. “When I saw Derrick Rose, I said, ‘My situation could be a lot worse.’ When I look at what he’s going through after missing a year off, it’s just one of those things you got to fight back from.
“It’s been an aspect of I haven’t had to rush back, which can often times lead to more serious problems and what not. I really don’t have any pressure on me at this point.”
When he does return, Granger expects to be on a minutes restriction simply because he has to play his way into shape. More than 25 percent into the season, he doesn’t have the luxury of a lot practices to ease his way into things. Keep in mind that Granger has historically been a slow starter, so it could take him some time for him to comfortably be back in the fold.
Given the continuity of the Pacers’ starting lineup, Granger seems best fit to strengthen the second unit. He plans to play off the bench, “at least from the beginning,” he said.
“Our starting lineup is doing well right now. I got to get back into shape, first."
He added: “You can’t mess up anything the way our team is. We don’t have that type of team where I would come in and take 20 shots in a game. That’s just not our team.”
Granger is hungry to return to the court. He saw his team sprint off to the best start in franchise history and sit atop the league standings. He wants to be part of that. And it may come as soon as Friday. But he didn’t even think about making his long-awaited return tonight in what is a meaningful game against the two-time defending champions.
“This game is just too important,” he said. “As much as I hate to miss it, I wouldn’t play not having played yet this season.”
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