Danny Granger can raise his NBA game after spending the summer with Team USA.
Working out with some of the league's best players and the USA Basketball coaching staff was a great alternate offseason program to help Granger improve his game and prepare for the upcoming season. Shortly after the workouts began, though, with many big-name players sitting out the summer and other players dropping out due to injury, Granger found himself in the mix for the final 12-man roster that would compete in Turkey.
Once on the team, Granger had a legitimate shot at playing a significant role as well, joining Andre Iguodala and Rudy Gay in a quest for forward minutes alongside Kevin Durant. But aside from an offensive outburst of 22 points in an exhibition against China, Granger's offensive production ranged from inconsistent to minimal. Since scoring the bucket is his calling card and coach Mike Krzyzewski and staff put an emphasis on defensive pressure, Granger morphed into the odd man out in the playing rotation once the games started to count.
Save for some blow-out run and mop-up minutes, Granger spent his time in Turkey supporting teammates from the bench. From a fan perspective, it was disappointing to watch, knowing Granger could jump in the action and light up the scoreboard if given the chance, even though the situation was reasonable from an objective, basketball perspective.
Zooming out to appreciate the bigger picture though, reveals plenty of benefits that the Pacers forward can bring with him to the Fieldhouse when training camp begins in a few weeks. It was truly a golden opportunity for Granger to improve as a player, leader and teammate. After the jump, more on what Granger can take away from his experience with Team USA this summer.
Danny Granger spent the better part of two months enmeshed in a tight-knit group that included several strong leaders. The most obvious among the group was Nuggets' point guard Chauncey Billups who has run championship teams and always relished the chance to kill off an opponent.
Granger also took in a different type of team leader in Kevin Durant. He's young and unassuming, quick to make sure everyone knows he's part of a team and the team comes first. But when it was time to lead Team USA on the court, Durant took his game to another level. He may kill 'em with kindness, but Durant was lethal as he seized the medal round by the throat.
Gaining the perspective of a different coaching staff should also benefit Granger in the long run. Coach K and Jim Boeheim are highly successful coaches who have led a wide-variety of players to strong results for many years. Nate McMillan is as tough-minded a coach as he was a player and has led quite well in both roles. Having these guys coaching up Granger and offering him a different perspective than the Pacers' staff is a huge benefit.
Talent and Competition
From the start of the Team USA camp in Las Vegas, Granger was subject to stiff competition with some of the NBA's best young players. A daily chance to see where you measure up while getting in game shape, not summer shape, should prove far more beneficial than the offseason run Granger would normally get in Los Angeles or Vegas.
Since it is safe to assume that Granger's defensive prowess, or lack thereof, was the most glaring reason he ended up in a 12th man role, it doesn't mean Granger didn't have the opportunity to improve his defense immensely with Team USA. When defense is an emphasis and competitive NBA players are vying for playing time, there's going to be some strong defensive effort dished out in practice. Considering how well Iguodala showed up on the defensive end in Istanbul, Granger could've improved his defense drastically and still not reached the level of Iggy.
Any defensive improvement will be welcomed and applying the lessons learned from the coaching staff and competition with Team USA should show up when Granger dons the blue and gold.
Yes, it was nice to make the 12-man roster after initial expections were minimal, but Danny Granger is considered one of the top players in the NBA and among the elite offensive players, averaging over 24 points per game the past two seasons. No matter how good of a face he put on, sitting through so many minutes of big games on the bench had to frustrate Granger.
A little slice of humble pie may be good for Granger. He's been riding pretty high since bursting onto the scene as an All-Star two years ago. Big new contract. Summers in L.A. All of the celebrity trappings there for the taking. But in Istanbul, respected basketball people let him know he wasn't quite good enough to play a big role.
To fully digest that pie, Granger has to look in the mirror instead of looking for excuses for why he didn't play. Take the constructive criticism to fuel an effort to show the world that he's plenty good enough by getting it done at both ends of the court in the NBA.
All Worth It
In the end, Danny Granger's Team USA experience was full of ups and downs, challenges, disappointments and ultimately excitement as he bounced up and down with teammates after securing a gold medal. From a selfish standpoint, Granger paid a small physical price while packing all of these varied experiences and development into his bag of tricks. No need to worry about the summer work leaving Granger worn out for the start of the season either since he was so lightly used over the final two weeks.
So the experience was great for Granger's development as a player and leader and thus great for the Pacers. The critics can minimize Granger's impact at the world championship or complain about his game's deficiencies, but as this sweet photo shows, they can never take away his gold medal nor the basketball experience of a lifetime.