Danny Granger has had a frustrating season to date, trying to play through a bum wheel before finally getting it fixed and then working his way back.
"Back" is a level of play at least comparable to last season's break-out year that saw Granger score just shy of 26 points per game while earning a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team and the league's Most Improved Player award.
With the foot issues, Granger's game hasn't been at an All-Star level although his last outing against Toronto showed a glimpse of what could be, including a committed defensive effort against fellow All-Star Chris Bosh. Granger also turned down a few 3-point shots down the stretch that have become a problem.
Granger's 3-point effectiveness had improved in each of his seasons topping out last year when he shot 6.7 3's per game and made 40.4% of those takes. This season Granger has lived behind the arc, launching a league-leading 8.7 3's per game but only making 35%. He simply has settled for the three way too much, especially down the stretch of games within reach.
Granger returned for the two road games this past weekend and launched 10 3-pointers in EACH game, including key clanks late in both losses. Unless there's an inordinate flow in progress, that's simply too many 3's. You know it's bad when Jim O'Brien has to have a sit down with Danny.
More on Granger's game along with Jarrett Jack's return to Conseco Fieldhouse after the jump.
Prior to Monday's game, JOB menitoned his emphasis with Granger was to remember that all of the team's perimeter players were available so he should have more options.
"Now we're playing with groups that are going to space the court, and as a result, when the ball goes to Danny and somebody is closing out on him, there's no reason for him to settle for a challenged 3 because the court is wide open now," O'Brien said.
Granger admitted he was settling for too many three's prior to taking care of his injury. He started the season with as an All-Star, the Most Improved Player often leading a short-handed team. He wanted to make things happen, to carry his team but he lacked confidence in his foot to take the ball to the rim with authority.
"There's no doubt my foot was slowing me down and I just settled for too many outside shots. I have confidence in my shot, but I'm feeling better and I just have to keep working to get my game back."
He made these comments looking away, seeming a bit annoyed to be talking about his shooting problems again. But then his head turned and eyes locked in as he proclaimed, "But there's no doubt about it, my all-around game will be back soon."
By soon I didn't think Granger meant in a couple of hours, but there he was in the fourth quarter on Monday, passing up perimeter opportunities to make plays. First there was a strong drive in the lane that drew the defense allowing Granger to find an open Earl Watson in the corner for a rhythm three that splashed. He followed that play up later by pump-faking a 3-ball and then cutting through the Toronto defense with a strong take that finished at the rim.
With the game on the line and a three pointer in his hands, Granger trusted his foot enough to make a strong play and build a little more confidence in his recovery.
"Definitely. I was not settling for the three and changed my mind set to attack mode to get to the rim," Granger said following the victory.
So when you combine the defensive effort with the improved all-around offensive game, Granger looked every bit the All-Star player the Pacers expect him to be. But this was one game. We've seen these bursts of greatness at various times in the past.
Was this simply a burst or is this a game Granger can truly build on to move past the injury-plagued start of the season? Since he's exposed what he has to offer, Granger has to back up Monday's results by consistently flashing that effort regardless of the opponent.
Jack makes quite an entrance
Former Pacer, Jarrett Jack arrived at Conseco Fieldhouse after his Toronto teammates, electing to walk over via the Pacers gift shop. This brought him to the floor from the northwest corner on the side of the court where a few Pacers were engaged in individual workouts.
Dressed to manage the cold weather in Indy, including a heavy coat, ski cap pulled down just above his eyes and oversized headphones hanging on top of his head, Jack drew some looks before everyone realized who it was. Then a wave of half-smiles broke out before Jack spoke and forced full smiles all around.
Soon players, coaches and other Fieldhouse personnel greeted Jack with various handshakes and hugs all genuinely happy to see the man. He stopped to talk with one of the managers and not some, "hey, how ya doin" and move along greeting. He stopped, looked the guy in the eye and shared a hug. He offered a handshake and reverence for coach Dick Harter, only responding to him as coach or sir. Then there were more hugs as he meandered his way to the visitor's locker room.
Considering the guy only played one year in Indiana, his return was quite a breathe of fresh air. It was that spirit which Jack brought to the locker room that earned him respect among teammates and fans alike. Of course, he went on to struggle during the game ending the night having revealed both why the Pacers wanted him to return (glue guy, great teammate, leader) and why they let him go to Toronto ($20 mil, too much money for production).