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NBA Saturday: Miami Taught Granger A Lesson
Posted By Joel Brigham On October 20, 2012 @ 8:58 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Danny Granger Sees Indy’s Bright Future (and Present)
It’s easy for us to forget that, halfway through last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals, many of us were writing off the Miami HEAT as title contenders. They weren’t doing well in their series against the Indiana Pacers, who seemed to have them on the ropes. Then, of course, LeBron James and Co. flipped a switch and started their unstoppable run to the NBA championship.
Pacers forward Danny Granger certainly hasn’t forgotten it, though, and it’s a tough loss he says the team will take with them into the new season.
“We had a two-to-one lead on Miami and they came back and we didn’t win the series,” Granger said. “We had a huge opportunity. Game four, up two-to-one and we blew it. So I think it stayed with a bunch of us for a long time, and it’s been our goal this year to get that sour taste out of our mouth.”
Call it a teachable moment. These kinds of things build character for promising young teams because as anybody with a championship ring knows, you’ve got to lose a little before you can win.
“Losing like that makes you realize even if you are doing enough, you aren’t doing enough,” Granger said. “You have to push that much harder and pay attention that much more to game film. You really have to be more of a student of the game to beat teams in the playoffs.”
Getting better mentally is only part of the battle, though. A team also needs talent, and the Pacers look like they’ve got that in droves heading into this season.
“We’re a really talented, young team,” Granger said. “Our starting five is really good. Just with who we brought in, the guys on the bench, we can be a very strong team and it’s just a matter of us believing that. When we win, we can’t let that get to our heads, not let the success of last year get to our heads, but we have to realize that we still have a long ways to go.”
But it might not be as long as Granger thinks. The Pacers went from sneaking into the postseason two years ago to winning a series last year, and in the spring of 2013 they’ll be expected to do even more. According to that progression, the Conference Finals are the next stop, and it’s not hard to imagine these Pacers as the second-best team in the East this year.
Yes, the Pacers are young and have a promising future, but they’re also good enough to win now.
“We’re poised for a big win, not just this year but in years beyond,” Granger said. “That excitement is inside of us. We feel it, and we’re just getting started.”
That they are, but it would nice for Granger and the rest of this team if they could go ahead and finish too. The HEAT, just like last year, are going to make that difficult, but you’ve got to beat the best to be the best. This year will go a long ways toward proving whether Indiana really has entered the league’s upper crust.
Granger, at least, seems ready for the transition.
Did Ray Allen Have Any Choice in Leaving Boston?
Kevin Garnett says he’s lost Ray Allen’s phone number. Apparently Garnett’s friendship, as well as the admiration of millions of Celtics fans, went out the window when Allen decided to ditch the green and white for South Beach. While that doesn’t make him quite as reviled as LeBron James is in Cleveland, it has turned him into something of a villain in certain parts of the country. Despite the vitriol, Allen insists that the Celtics share just as much of the blame for him leaving
“The team put me in the position where we had to move,” Allen recently told WMEN in Miami. “We had to go. Miami was a better choice for us based on what the team was doing, so don’t boo me, boo the team.”
Allen just can’t quite understand his former fans’ quick turnaround considering everything he gave to the city of Boston.
“It was just really a shame because on one hand you could say so many great things about me as a player and my impact on the floor, and not only on the floor but off the floor, like we did so many great things in the community,” Allen said. “That was my community, and I supported it as much as I could. We had some foundation initiatives that we still continue to do, so that doesn’t change me.”
At the end of the day, Allen insists he did what was best for himself and everybody he’s close to. Sure, Miami gives him a better chance at another ring, but Allen admits that the money was better in Miami too. Who in their right mind wouldn’t leave an employer they feel undervalues them for a better situation that’s going to give you a significant pay raise?
“It was out of my control,” he said. “When this contract situation came down, everybody in my circle — mom, family, brother, sister, friends from college, people who watched me since I was in high school and since I was in college — nobody wanted me to re-sign in that situation because they thought, ‘There [is] so much left in you, and this team isn’t taking care of you or treating you right.’ That’s the way I felt, and it was like, if you are going to come and not put out a good contract on the table then, hey, we gotta think about going somewhere else.”
Now, Allen says, he can use this frustration for motivation when he faces Boston for the first time on October 30th.
“When I get on a treadmill or run the street or ride my bike or whatever it may be, I have so many different motivations,” he said. “Whether you are on the road or at home, old or young, I want to beat you no matter what it is, and I’ll find some way to get some type of advantage on you. So that is always going to exist in me no matter.
“I look forward to that moment because even if we played Atlanta on opening night, I was going to find something that I want to beat them and beat them bad.”
Of course, it’s not Atlanta on opening night. It’s the Boston Celtics, and there’s no way we aren’t all looking forward to watching that one.
Kentucky’s Crazy Haul
A couple of years ago at the McDonald’s All-American game, media went nuts over the four top-25 recruits that the University of Kentucky had compiled for the 2011-12 season. That group, which featured Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, obviously went on to win the championship and helped make it fashionable for other top recruits like Nerlens Noel to find their way to Lexington for this basketball season. It turns out, that was only the start of what looks like a pretty impressive recruiting run for UK.
As Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel pointed out in a recent article, a championship and another top-flight recruiting class wasn’t enough for Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Instead, he’s well on his way toward assembling what could be the best assemblage of college freshman hoopsters since Michigan’s Fab Five.
Calipari has gotten four commitments over the course of the last three weeks, and each and every one of those commitments has been by a high school players ranked among the top fifteen prospects in the country. That includes Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Texan twins ranked third and fourth among high school players, as well as James Young (#8) and Marcus Lee (#15).
The really crazy thing, though, is that he might not even be done. Julius Randle, the #1 overall prospect in the country, and Andrew Wiggins, who could reclassify as a senior and easily take over the #1 overall position in the country, are both considering Kentucky as well. That would basically give Calipari six of the top high school players in the country. On one team.
It seems doubtful that both Randle and Wiggins would commit to a school already so steeped in talent. It’s true they’d have a great chance at winning a championship and maybe even going undefeated (which is unprecedented, by the way), but that many studs on one college roster doesn’t really allow for any one guy to flourish. Every single one of these kids is used to being the best player on the floor at all times, and a situation like that would be a huge change.
But Calipari has a way of getting these kids to Lexington and, even if Randle and Wiggins pass, the Wildcats already look like championship favorites in 2014. They’re “only” the #3 team in the country heading into this season, but the future remains bright for the latest college hoops dynasty. Or perhaps bright is underselling things. Blinding?
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