Danny Granger has always seemed to want to be the tough guy. Whether it's coming to his teammate's defense, or taking exception to an opposing team running up the score, or inexplicably picking a fight with a what was almost a teammate (O.J. Mayo), Granger often finds himself on the confrontation prowl. In the past, it could be argued the tough-guy approach was a logical ploy. Someone...or something had to counterbalance the perpetual mediocrity, and the persona of toughness was as good a bet as any. While Granger's past antics had noble aspirations, something was missing. The tough-guy venture always felt a bit hollow when the man or team doing the talking was a participator in years' worth of mind-numbing Ls.
Well, if early-season performance is any indication, times are a changin'. Danny no longer needs to rely solely on feigned aggression as a respect or attention getter. No, no...now when Danny talks people will listen. Why? 9-3 is why. The Pacers are winners again, and, as you can imagine, success has Danny's tough-talk meter going up a notch. He even recruited a fellow teammate to join the cause:
"I think the message is that we’re a force to be reckoned with in the East, " said Pacers forward Danny Granger, who scored 21 points. "It’s really not one of those fluke things where we just started having a good beginning of the season. We’re actually a legitimate contender in the East. We’re right there, and we should be recognized as that."
"I like to say to the guys in the locker room, we’re the best kept secret," Indiana center Roy Hibbert said. "Nobody’s talking about us. Indiana Pacers are best kept secret. Let everybody talk about the teams and have them ranked ahead of us, and we’re just going to go ahead and just do our business and chop them down."
Call it bravado, or swagger, or whatever, it appears these Pacers have it. And, unlike the tortured past, they're dangerously close to deserving such bold lingo associated with their name. That's what winning does for you. It puts once empty tough-guy threats on the path towards credibility, because gameday will back it up.
I suppose this all started just before the 2010-2011 playoff series against Chicago. Granger went into his familiar "be brash" routine when discussing his desire to play the Bulls and the league's MVP in the playoffs rather than more playoff-tested vets such as the Celtics. Obviously, the Pacers didn't win the series, but Granger gained a renewed respect from many fans after playing well during a competitive series. Suddenly, the tough-guy mantra had some clout; it had some substance.
"Clout" and "substance" is exactly where it appears this 2011-2012 Indiana Pacers team is headed. A gameplan of board crashing and suffocating defense has the franchise off to its best start since the pre-brawl days. And excuse Granger & Co. if they decide to celebrate through a little verbal strutting. After all, on-court performance says it isn't empty talk anymore. Just ask Boston's Big Four/former Champs who took it in the chin on a smash-mouth Saturday night. In fact, ask them twice...