Jalen Rose Clarifies Opinion, Gives Take on Pacers

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by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

October 25, 2013

Jalen Rose is pretty much over jet lag after he accompanied the Pacers on their trip to the Philippines and Taiwan. Rose joined his former team on their chartered plane, visited with members of the team and enjoyed reminiscing about his days in Indiana (1996-2002) with team president Larry Bird, among others.

One recent comment caught my eye on the interwebs last week. Rose’s colleague at ESPN, Bill Simmons, wrote the following about the Pacers in an Oct. 18 piece for Grantland:

“We know Chicago and Brooklyn will be MUCH better, and we know the Clippers, Rockets and maybe even the Warriors are contenders now. I liked the Scola/Watson additions, and you can't underestimate the worth of Larry Legend's return karma. But they're not going to seriously contend unless they can flip Danny Granger's expiring into one more asset. Jalen went on that Philippines trip and came away thinking Granger was D-U-N done."

Done? I thought that was harsh and premature. So I then connected with Rose for an explanation.

“Anybody that knows me and (Simmons') relationship, we love each other to the point where he doesn’t always quote each word correctly,” Rose said by phone Wednesday night from Los Angeles. “What I basically was saying is it remains to be seen whether (Granger is) done playing at an All-Star level.

“I’m glad you brought that to my attention. I’m glad you came to the source so we can rectify that right now.”

If you look at the story now, since our conversation, it has been updated to read, “Jalen went on that Philippines trip and came away thinking Granger was D-U-N done playing at an All-Star level (or close to that).”

So why did he feel that way? Was it something in particular that he saw?

“It wasn’t a visual,” Rose explained. “You either do two things in this business, you either go by your eye test or you have to project. Right now, it really wasn’t an opportunity to do an eye test because it’s preseason, he’s trying to get back, he didn’t really play much last season, and he’s trying to get his legs underneath him. The proving ground is going to happen when everybody else’s proving ground starts – and that’s when the regular season tips off.”

This all was before Granger sustained a calf strain, which is now expected to keep him out of the opener – and likely some time thereafter. If healthy, Rose says he would start Granger over Lance Stephenson. However, until Granger can get healthy, it’s a moot point.

“By the way, Frank Vogel is a terrific coach and they pay him millions of dollars for these decisions but if I was him, I would personally start Danny Granger because all teams have strengths and weaknesses,” Rose said.

“One of the things the Pacers got to make sure that they continue to do is get dribble penetration for drop passes and layups for their bigs, in particular [David] West and Roy [Hibbert] to get ‘em going. As opposed to constantly have them score over and through bodies, it just becomes so much tougher and since Granger’s a spot-up shooter, he can space the floor and give Paul George, in particular, that opportunity to not only be a scorer but a slasher to get others involved because he’s going to draw so much double and triple-teams.”

The Pacers and Orlando Magic actually tip off this year’s NBA regular season on Tuesday, Oct. 29. One player everyone in the league will keeping their eye on is Paul George, last year’s Most Improved Player (an award Rose himself won in 2000) and the projected 13th-best player this upcoming season, according to ESPN's #NBARank.

“The sky’s the limit,” Rose said of George, who’s just 23 years old. “He’s got an opportunity to be the best two-way player on the perimeter that that’s franchise has seen. Nobody is going to duplicate the clutch shooting of Reggie [Miller], coming off screens and what he’s done over his 18-year career. He’s always going to be the greatest Pacer, individually, but Paul already is the kind of player that’s getting you 17 points, six or seven rebounds, six or seven assists. There aren’t too many players in the league that can do that now and there haven’t been too many players for that franchise that have been able to do that only in his third year and to take the leap he and (Warriors sharpshooter) Steph Curry took was truly amazing to me.”

The Pacers’ Achilles heel last season, without a doubt, was their bench. It ranked second-to-last in the league in the NBA, and was an inconsistent unit. That’s why improving it was Bird’s top priority when he returned as team president.

“The thing I liked that they did, and it’s actually funny but I love it in sports. Some teams and people in this business they play it safe and don’t make wholesale change because it’s safe. I like the way when they saw how [the bench] performed last year in the playoffs, you noticed they got rid of all of them. I absolutely loved that.”

“And then you bring in [Chris] Copeland, who can play a high-low or one of the bigs and will stretch the floor. [Luis] Scola is going to be able to score around the hoop and I like [C.J.] Watson as a backup point guard.

Rose can been heard from on a variety of ESPN platforms, but serving as an in-studio host as he does for ESPN’s premier NBA show, ‘NBA Countdown,’ is his favorite duty.

“I’ve been fortunate to do everything from sideline to a podcast; live shows, tape shows, debate shows, radio show, TV shows. …I joke all the time that I truly don’t have a radio face.”

Rose truly enjoyed his time in Indiana, especially because of the people inside the organization. He it said it was truly a pleasure for him to serve as a league ambassador and represent the team on their trip overseas.

“The great thing about being with so many parts of this multimedia space and being a former player, is that I’m still a fan,” Rose said. “To be around the team, to get a chance to watch them practice, to see Houston putting together a team early in the preseason, to see Indiana putting together a team, spend time with Larry Legend is always terrific. He, Donnie Walsh and Rick Carlisle did so much for me as a player and as a man, I basically owe them for the position that I have right now.”

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