Danny Granger's comeback has hit a bit of a speed bump, as relayed Monday afternoon by Scott Agness of the Indiana Pacers' official website:
Danny Granger (strained left calf) didn't practice and is ruled out for this week.
— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) October 21, 2013
That'll take the Pacers' 30-year-old swingman, who missed all but five games last season with a left knee injury, out of Indiana's final two preseason games — a Tuesday trip to take on the Atlanta Hawks in Georgia, and a Friday visit to the Dallas Mavericks.
Granger first suffered the calf strain during the first quarter of the Pacers' 92-85 loss to the Dallas last Wednesday; he did not return, logging just under eight minutes of action. He came back to give it a go two nights later against the Chicago Bulls, getting the start and scoring 11 points in 16 minutes, but the strain flared up in the second half and put him on the bench again. Now, coach Frank Vogel and company have decided to keep Granger there for the remainder of the exhibition calendar in hopes of having him healthy and whole come the Pacers' regular-season opener next Tuesday against the Orlando Magic.
That's a bummer for Granger, who's been trying to knock off the rust and get back to his former All-Star form, and whose 4-for-7 performance against the Bulls (which included a perfect 3-for-3 mark from downtown) represented a high point in a preseason in which he shot 31.8 percent from the floor, averaging 8.8 points and 3.2 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game. It could also mean that Granger comes off the bench to begin the season, with Lance Stephenson hanging on to his starting role alongside Paul George and George Hill on the wing, though Vogel hasn't made a definitive announcement on that one way or the other.
It certainly makes sense for the Pacers to be cautious with Granger in the early going. For one thing, they learned last year that they can operate effectively without him — recently maxed-out swingman George has proven himself quite capable of assuming a primary offensive role on the wing, Stephenson had a breakout season as Indiana's starting shooting guard with George moving to small forward last year, and the George-Stephenson-Hill-David West-Roy Hibbert starting five outscored opponents by a whopping 12.1 points per 100 possessions last season, according to NBA.com's stat tool.
More than that, though, the Pacers know they need to play the long game with Granger — having his shot-making and supplemental playmaking will matter much more in May and June than it will in October and November, after all. Such setbacks are obviously far from ideal when a player has missed so much time and is trying to re-establish his rhythm and connectivity with his teammates, but it's in Indiana's best interest to do whatever possible to prevent a preseason sprain from becoming a nagging, athleticism-sapping injury well into what's projected to be a very big season in Indianapolis.
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