One week after shutting him down for the remainder of their preseason slate, the Indiana Pacers announced Monday that forward Danny Granger will miss "approximately three weeks" as he continues to work his way back from a strained left calf.
From the team's announcement:
The length of time is a precautionary measure as the team wants to ensure Granger is physically ready to play in light of missing all but five games last season due to his knee injury. The rehabilitation time is strictly related to the calf injury.
Which is to say, it's not related to the left knee injury that limited the 30-year-old Granger to just five games last season. That takes a bit of the sting out of the negative report, I suppose, but then there's this added bit of color from Pacers beat reporter Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:
Granger said the other day that he can't even run in a straight line. And when he feels the strain doing anything, the #Pacers shut it down
— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) October 28, 2013
Running's a pretty important part of playing professional basketball, so it makes sense for the Pacers to keep Granger on the shelf and rehabilitating until his wheels are fully operational.
It's not like they don't know they can hold down the fort without him — recently maxed-out rising star Paul George and center Roy Hibbert last season proved more than capable of handling increased offensive roles in Granger's absence, while Lance Stephenson impressed when given an opportunity to act as Indiana's starting shooting guard. The George-Stephenson-Hibbert-David West-George Hill starting five outscored opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions last season, according to NBA.com's stat tool, making it one of the most dominant lineups in the league; if your fall-back option is returning to that, it's not the worst thing in the world.
Granger suffered the calf strain during the first quarter of a 92-85 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. He returned to the floor two nights later against the Chicago Bulls, starting and scoring 11 points in 16 minutes before aggravating the strain and heading back to the bench ... where, apparently, he'll stay for first three weeks of the regular season, meaning he'll likely miss somewhere around 10 games.
That, obviously, isn't ideal for Granger, who's trying to come back from nearly a full year on the shelf, regain the prominence he once enjoyed as Indiana's top offensive option and a four-time 20-point-per-game scorer and, as Eric Freeman noted in our Pacers season preview, "decide the shape of his basketball future" as he heads into the final year of a contract that will pay him just over $14 million. Granger didn't look especially sharp in the preseason, averaging 8.8 points and 3.2 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game and shooting 31.8 percent from the floor in five appearances; that's understandable, of course, given how long he spent laid up, but the longer his injury issues persist and prevent him from rediscovering his rhythm, the more difficult it's going to be for him to reclaim his spot in Frank Vogel's rotation.
He'll still get his chance, however — the NBA season's long, and 10 or so games missed at the start of the season will be all but forgotten if Granger can be relied upon to provide some offensive punch and playmaking help over the course of Indiana's final 10 games, which the Pacers plan to be playing in mid-June. It's in the Pacers' best interest to do whatever they can do to ensure that when Granger gets back on the court, he actually stays there, even if that means delaying his estimated time of arrival longer than previously anticipated. The fear, however, is that Granger's comeback could continue to be delayed by the sorts of strains, sprains and pains that seem minor when compared to the knee injury he suffered last year, but could wind up preventing him from approximating the level of play Indiana was hoping to receive to bolster a second unit that lagged last season.
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