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Lance Stephenson pushing to expand role with Danny Granger sidelined for Pacers

Third-year guard playing heavy minutes off the bench for Pacers and earning the trust of Frank Vogel.

Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel has spent the first three games of the regular season tinkering with the playing rotation an five-man combinations while trying to fill the gap left by Danny Granger's injured knee.

Granger's return remains uncertain, but with the team on the road and the training staff still at least a day away from gathering all the info on the knee's status and deciding the next course of action, it doesn't seem like Granger will be back in the near term.

Gerald Green has started in Granger's place for the Pacers and struggled in the first two games before getting a couple of easy early buckets and appearing more comfortable on the court en route to 17 points against the Kings.

But in the past two games, Lance Stephenson has come off the bench and given the Pacers a big boost which earned him crunch-time minutes with the rest of the starting unit.

Could Stephenson end up starting for the Pacers until Granger returns? They could easily move Paul George to small forward to pair with Stephenson on the wing. That also allows Green to play with the second unit as intended. At times the reserves are desperate for offense and Green could give that boost playing as one of the primary offensive options with the bench instead of the third or fourth option with the starters.

Frank Vogel doesn't plan to change his lineup at this point, but does like what Stephenson is now bringing to the team as quoted on

"He plays with great energy," Vogel said. "He's a presence out there on both ends. He's not always in the right spot on the defensive end, but he really competes on the ball, really competes on his man. That changes things defensively for us in a positive way."

Stephenson has flat out gotten it done in the past two games for the Pacers but that grand total of two games is not enough to support any drastic moves. Vogel intends to play his gut down the stretch and utilize the player he feels is having a better game regardless of whether it is Green finishing with the starters or Stephenson off the bench.

Consistency should remain Stephenson's goal as he needs to become a reliable contributor in the playing rotation. If the team can begin to rely on Stephenson playing like he has the past two games, his playing time and role on the roster will take care of itself.