Granger excited for George’s Most Improved Player Award
Using a crutch to help him walk around with a surgically-repaired left knee, Pacers veteran Danny Granger had nothing but smiles on Tuesday afternoon at the Pacers practice. It was a strange moment, because in a sense due to missing seventy-six games this season and all of the postseason, Granger was now in position to talk about his teammate and budding superstar Paul George.
If Granger never has problems with his knee, perhaps George is never asked to take on as big of an offensive role with the team, averaging 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game during his third season (12.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.1 apg in 2011-12). George’s relentless defense has always been there, but without Granger available as the number-one option for the Pacers, somebody had to step up as the go-to scorer on this Indiana team. George did just that, leading Indiana to a 49-32 and Central Division Championship, and being named the Kia 2013 Most Improved Player on Tuesday morning.
“I am just so proud of him and how far he has come,” said Granger. “From when we drafted him three years ago and everything he has done, it is a great accomplishment. Ironically, he did get a chance to show what he could do this year, and he did a great job.”
Granger, who was the last Indiana Pacer to win the award in 2009 (Jalen Rose in 2000, Jermaine O’neal in 2002), has been a big fan of George’s game even before he was an Indiana Pacer. In fact due to his size, he was pushing then President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird to select the Fresno State sophomore entering into the 2010 NBA Draft.
“I had a workout with Paul and a couple of players in Los Angeles,” said Granger.
“It was about five days before the draft, and as we got towards the draft, Larry called me about two days before the draft. He said ‘They told me you were working out with this kid Paul George, what do you think about him,’ and I said ‘You better draft him.’ Just from what I saw in the workouts, I knew was special, and Larry was glad that I got a hands-on approach from it. Sure enough, we drafted him the next night.”
Three summers later Granger claimed he was there for some of the eye-opening workouts of George’s off-season regimen, the one that George had earlier in the day claimed he had dedicated to the memory of losing to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Granger is hoping that he will be back and ready to join him during the off-season, and at least by day one of training camp next year, to play alongside the Pacers star in the making.
Adjustments to be made in game-two, though Pacers keeping close-lipped on what they might be
Game-to-game adjustments in the NBA Playoffs are the lifeline to success for a team in each series, and that is no different for both the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks after the Pacers 107-90 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams are expected to make some some alterations in their game-plan on Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in game two, and though we don’t specifically know what Indiana is going to attempt to do, something that was emphasized Tuesday afternoon by Frank Vogel is the team’s need to play better defense.
“Fifty-percent field-goal defense isn’t good enough,” said Vogel about the Hawks going 38-76 on Sunday. “We have to get better. We saw the areas where we need to get better. Most of it involves being better at what we do, so not a lot of major adjustments going into game-two. We definitely have to be better at what we are doing.”
Pacers forward David West, who finished game one with thirteen points and nine rebounds, noted that there are a couple things that he would like the Pacers to keep going into game two. That is Pacers ability to execute from game one, and the attitude that they haven’t accomplished anything as of yet going into Wednesday night.
“Our resolve has to be the same,” said West. “We need to be focused on defense, try to get shots on the floor, and try to get them to turn the ball over and get in transition.”
Just as West and Vogel wouldn’t touch much on the specifics of their adjustments to the Pacers game-plan, they wouldn’t delve deep into what they expect Atlanta to change on Wednesday night. However, Vogel would be surprised if Atlanta lets Indiana to control the physical-nature of the game as much as the Pacers did this past weekend.
“We know they are going to bring incredible intensity and physicality into game-two,” said Vogel. “We have to match it, and still finish the game being the more physical team.”
Pendergraph, bench ready for more opportunities in game two
Indiana Pacers forward/center Jeff Pendergraph had no problem admitting it on Tuesday afternoon. When he first got his opportunity to play on Sunday afternoon in game one, he was feeling a little butterflies in his stomach.
“Yeah I was kind of nervous,” said Pendergraph, who finished the game with two points, five rebounds in fourteen minutes of play coming off the bench.
“That was my first time in the playoffs playing minutes, and it’s a little different when you are playing at the end of the game and the series is already lost. Those really don’t count. But just getting used to it, trying not to think too much. When you try to tell yourself not to think too much, you end up thinking too much. Offensively it wasn’t there for me, but the second half I felt like I rebounded, stopped worrying about it so much, and just went out and played. If I didn’t score another point that was fine, I was just trying to go out there and get rebounds any way I can. I don’t have to make jump-shots to affect the game.”
Pendergraph received substantial minutes on Sunday as a back-up for starting center Roy Hibbert, especially for a player that didn’t play in forty-four regular season games over the course of the season. He was joined by Tyler Hansbrough (9 points, 5 rebounds in 17 minutes) and Gerald Green (11 points, 2 assists) as major contributors in the opening game off the pine.
“It is paramount,” said Pendergaph on how important bench production is in the postseason.
“A lot of people think it is all starters. You know, they can’t play all forty-eight minutes of course. So we depend on them to go out there, start weathering the punches that there starters are doing, and the bench has to come in and keep on swinging. We need to keep them tired out, so when they (the starters) are rested they can come in, that is just how you keep on building on leads.”
Pendergraph would go on to say that he is seemingly ready if the minutes are there again for him on Wednesday night, and that he will be ready to keep playing the Pacers physical style of basketball once he gets on the court again.