Back home again (you know the rest), after a hot vacation in the Pacific Northwest has me catching up with all of the Pacers news that hit while I was away. Actually, Sean kept things smokin' around here so I was able to keep tabs on the Pacers as we head into the normally quiet month of August.
Still some loose ends left to be tied up though with A.J. Price still unsigned and Marquis Daniels waiting to see how he will join the Celtics' roster. Then there's the lovely two sentence news the Pacers sent us into August with, explaining that Tyler Hansbrough wouldn't be doing anything involving his right shin until October.
As Sean pointed out while coming to grips with this news, the Pacers penchant for dropping "minor" injury news with a move-along-nothing-to-see-here delivery has become common place. Coupled with Mike Dunleavy's knee pain last year actually being a bubbling cauldron of career-threatening knee problems, any news including 6-8 weeks on the shelf is ripe for overreaction.
I'm not to that point yet, but I do have some thoughts on injuries.
First, if I may shift to Quisy for a moment -- he's not coming back to the Pacers. Yes, he may very well take $1.9 million to play for the Celtics but he wouldn't take $2.0 million to play for the Pacers this year. He's a free agent so he wants money and/or a shot at a championship. He'll take less money for a title shot and vice . So SHaFF87, I love the enthusiasm and I understand your desire to see Quisy with the blue and gold again, but it ain't happenin'.
Now, back to the injury topic...
Injuries hit the Pacers hard last year but honestly, every team has to deal with injuries so you must figure that into the equation when speculating about the future fortunes of the team. Injuries hurt the Pacers more over the past couple of seasons because they didn't have depth to overcome it.
The Pacers still don't have depth to withstand a rash of injuries but they should be in better shape heading into this year. I say this for a couple of reasons.
For one, the second unit is deeper at the trouble spots in the front and back court. T.J. Ford played 70 games last year and Jarrett Jack played all 82, but Travis Diener wasn't always available which made for some odd back court rotations when Ford was out or not 100 percent. This year, Earl Watson, Diener and A.J. Price should be able to cover all of the minutes at point guard in support of Ford.
Up front, Solomon Jones and Josh McRoberts offer active filler ready to help at either end of the floor depending on the situation.
Plus, the depth can give more minutes off the bench to keep the whole roster fresh as the season wears on and everybody is dinged up in some form or fashion.
The second way the team is in better shape, is with the type of players on the roster. Danny Granger proved last year that it will take a serious injury to keep him off the floor. There's a time to take care of your body (in the summer despite USA Basketball camp) and there's a time to lay it all on the line, never mind tooth bits spilling across the Fieldhouse floor.
It is yet to be seen, but I imagine Tyler Hansbrough will show up ready to play on the first day of camp and dare the doctors to limit his play. Until we hear otherwise, resting the shin now seems wise since Hansbrough's been going at it hard since North Carolina's season started last year. With draft prep, summer camp and individual workout the Pacers probably negotiated a rest time for him so he'd be ready for the NBA grind. Plus, as a rookie, Hansbrough's minutes won't wear him out. Yes the season is long, but he'll be tied to the bench enough so that he should be able to work past an overuse injury.
The mindset of having a player like Granger working through injuries to do anything he can to play sets the expectation for the rest of the roster. This is a huge shift from just 2-3 years ago when players like Jermaine O'Neal, Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels would miss stretches of games with nagging injuries and never appeared anxious to return. I understand that's unfair in many cases and I realize J.O. tried to "play on one leg" but the fact remains that these guys took forever to return to the court with whatever injury was ailing them at the time. I don't doubt they were hurting but I always wondered if they were spilling their guts working to rehab and return to the lineup ASAP.
I agree with Sean, the Pacers are due for some good health, but I'm still expecting injuries to play a big role during next season's 82 games. Just how the team deals with those injuries in the upcoming season will be worth watching.