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Even with Granger out, Pacers believe they’ve improved

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INDIANAPOLIS  – For Pacers fans hoping for the full return of one of the players who rebuilt the franchise, the wait continues for a little longer.

Calf issues will keep Danny Granger from keeping his regular season comeback from taking place on opening night Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse as head coach Frank Vogel ruled the forward out for the first two game.

Granger missed the majority of the preseason after straining his calf against the Mavericks on October 9th.

“He’s just doing some light shooting and stuff but as long as he’s feeling anything, we’re going to be cautious with it,” said Vogel of Granger.

Yet as the beginning of the season approaches the Pacers remain relatively healthy and determined to start off where the left back in June, when the team came a game short of their second NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.

The entire starting lineup from that team returns again along with a few additions to the bench-and Vogel believes the team’s core strengths from a season ago will be the same this year and better.

“I don’t look to hard at preseason numbers, I just look at all the parts. I feel good that we’re going to be a really good defensive team and I think we’re going to be much improve offensively,” said Vogel.

Some of the team’s new additions to the bench, like C.J. Watson, Chris Copelan and Luis Scola, figure to aid the Pacers desire to do so. It was the lack of bench production that proved the difference in the Heat series and could be the key to getting the Pacers one step farther this season.

Don’t forget that Granger wasn’t around for the playoff run a season ago, which means the team could have a deeper lineup later in the season.

“Our experience,” said center Roy Hibbert of how this team is different from last year. “Bringing in guys like Scola and C.J., Copeland had an excellent year last year and Donald (Sloan) coming into the fold. So we’ll have more experience than we did last year.”

A lot of success, like with other teams, will depend on last year’s Pacers making improvements to their own games. Paul George knows how to do that having won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award in 2013, and he has an idea on how to improve his game this season.

While George said improving consistency is his biggest individual challenge of the season, collectively the focus for the squad this year will be keeping up the intensity against every team in the league.

“I think where we left off helped motivate us for every game,” said George. “It’s different for us this year because last year we were the team on the outside looking in. It’s opposite now. We’re the team guys are gunning for and other teams are getting hyped to play.

“We can’t approach games thinking that we can turn it on when we want and turn it off when we want. That’s going to be our biggest challenge, being ready to play against anybody.”