NBA Sunday: The New Danny Granger
Danny Granger’s Offensive Evolution
The general NBA fandom has caught onto the fact that the Indiana Pacers are, in fact, a pretty decent team. But it wasn’t always that way. For the last handful of seasons, Indiana has been buried in that odd purgatory where they either just made the playoffs (with zero chance of winning a series) or just missed them (with zero chance of winning the lottery), and that’s a hard place to be for an NBA team.
Just ask Danny Granger, who has been looked upon as the team’s primary scorer every year since Jermaine O’Neal left Indianapolis in 2008. He’s always scored well, but not necessarily efficiently, often forcing up bad shots because he felt like he had to in order to give his team a reasonable chance to win every night.
“I haven’t shot the ball particularly well, but it hasn’t caused us to lose games,” Granger, who has shot a brutal 17-for-68 (25%) over his last five games, told HOOPSWORLD. “That’s awesome because in the past, that would’ve definitely lost us the game. Thankfully this year that’s not the case.”
Actually, the entire team has had its fair share of offensive woes early this season, but despite everything they’re still 6-2, good enough for the third-best winning percentage in the Eastern Conference. Granger knows his teammates’ roles in the strong start.
“We’re shooting something like 38% as a team, so it’s good to have that extra offensive support that we haven’t had in past seasons. I was always the one that had to score, but this year I score when I’m needed to.”
With seven different players currently averaging double figures for Indiana, it’s clear that this is a very different Pacers team from a year ago.
Part of that change has been on the defensive end, which Pacers coach Frank Vogel has noticed, particularly in his starting small forward.
“He’s defending,” Vogel said regarding Granger. “He’s brought his defense at a really high level all season, all seven games that we’ve played. He’s a huge reason we’re defending so well as a team.”
Granger admitted his extra tenacity on that end has everything to do with the energy he saves not dominating the ball on offense every possession.
“My defense has been really great because I know I don’t have to score 25 points a game,” Granger said. “I get to focus more on the defensive end. I’m honestly having one of the best defensive years I’ve ever had so far.”
With Granger shooting so poorly, and David West still finding his way with the new team and his surgically-repaired knee, it’s a small miracle that Indiana is playing this well early on. Granger, though, doesn’t want anyone to think that he’s going to back off on offense.
“My aggressiveness is still there,” he admitted. “We just have more scoring threats, and that’s a blessing.”
It will really seem like a blessing when the team gets firing on all cylinders. Outside of Miami and Chicago, this might be the best team in the Eastern Conference. Granger’s role might be changing drastically, but that’s a good thing when the team does nothing but get better.
Four seasons ago, Granger believed the team went as he did. Now, the team goes as the team goes, and that’s a good thing for the new Indiana Pacers.
Dwight Howard Leaning Towards Staying
According to David Pingalore over at ClickOrlando.com, Dwight Howard is leaning heavily towards remaining in Orlando instead of requesting a trade to New Jersey, Los Angeles, or Dallas.
We’re supposed to read this as some huge new flash, but anybody who’s been visiting HOOPSWORLD or following Steve Kyler or Alex Kennedy on Twitter for the last couple of months knows that Dwight’s reported trade request has always been considered a last-ditch effort when he felt there was zero hope left in Orlando.
A mere eight games into the season, the Eastern Conference has already split into haves and have-nots, and Orlando still looks like one of the best five or six teams in the conference. That doesn’t sound like “zero hope” to me, and it’s certainly not hopeless enough yet for Howard to leave a city he adores for a team playing as poorly as the New Jersey Nets.
Pingalore’s report quotes a source saying that there’s an “80 percent” chance that Howard stays put in Central Florida, and that sounds about right. Kyler has been saying for weeks and weeks that he’d believe in a D12 trade when he saw it. Well, he hasn’t seen it yet, and at this point it might never happen if Howard continues to change his tune about leaving.
That, of course, would be perfectly fine by Magic fans.
The Very Expensive Sacrifice of Bismack Biyombo
There was a time when we all thought Bobcats rookie Bismack Biyombo wouldn’t be playing in the NBA this year. Even when a rumored $4 million buyout with his former team, Spanish club Fuenlabrada, was knocked down to $1.5 million, some thought the price would be too high. It’s probably true that many international rookies would’ve played out another year of the deal to avoid taking the financial hit, because even with the Bobcats paying $525,000 of that buyout, Biyombo would still lose over a third of his rookie salary.
Biyombo, however, never balked at the opportunity to pay the tab and get his rear end to Michael Jordan’s NBA team in North Carolina.
“The buyout thing was tough,” Biyombo told HOOPSWORLD. “It takes a lot of work to get something like that started, but thanks to the team for getting it started. I’m very happy I was able to get here for the start of the season.
“I decided to pay it because it was the right thing to do for the team,” he added. “Also, I’ve been dreaming to be in the NBA for a long time. Something you’ve worked so hard for, it’s hard to let someone just take it away. It took a lot of work to get here, and I sacrificed a lot to get here, so I can put the money on the table if it means living my dream.
“Money comes and goes,” he added, “but I think this was the right thing to do for the team and the fans.”
Biyombo is a very vibrant and likable kid, and Charlotte head coach Paul Silas sees the potential in a young man with that kind of disposition and coachability.
“He’s great,” Silas said. “He asks questions because he wants to know. He and my assistant coaches talk all the time and watch a lot of tape.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready for primetime, however.
“He’s going to be good in the future, but it’s just going to take some time,” Silas added. “He hasn’t been involved in the NBA that much, or even anything similar to the NBA, so he has to learn. But he’s going to. He wants to.”
Biyombo, who is averaging an impressive 1.4 blocks per game in 12.6 minutes of action through eight games, knows he’s got a long way to go, but he seems confident and optimistic about his future as an NBA player.
“This is just the beginning for me,” he said. “There’s so much I don’t know, and I’m just starting to learn everything about the league. I’m just getting to know my teammates. We’ll let time tell, and in the meantime I’ll just put everything on the table.”
Should that work out the way he hopes, it could be a nice, long career for the talented young big man.
“It’s crazy. It is crazy,” he chuckled. “Sometimes you just can’t believe what’s happening. It is what it is. It’s a dream.”