INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indiana needs to find a long-term replacement for Danny Granger.
Team officials announced Wednesday that the one-time All-Star forward is expected to miss up to three months after receiving an injection in his left knee to treat patellar tendinosis.
Losing Granger for an extended period is a big blow for a team that entered this season hoping to contend for an Eastern Conference title. He was the Pacers’ top scorer last season (18.7 points) and is typically their first option in late-game situations, too.
All the Pacers can do now is move on.
“We still have a heck of a team,” coach Frank Vogel said before Saturday night’s home opener. “We’ve still got a great deal of talent, a great deal of depth. So my hopes are very high that we’ll excel without Danny.”
Granger originally hurt the knee during May’s playoff run. Vogel said the soreness dissipated for a while, then returned while Granger was working out during the offseason.
In September, Granger said he underwent blood-platelet treatment, which he described as a painful experience that could take months to fully heal.
“It hurts,” Granger said in mid-October. “They take the blood out and inject it back in, so it hurts. But it helps you heal tremendously.”
Apparently, Granger hasn’t reaped those benefits yet. He has not played in any of Indiana’s first four regular season games, though he did make one preseason appearance. At Cleveland, on Oct. 23, Granger scored nine points in 13 minutes.
Without him, things haven’t always gone smoothly.
The Pacers (2-2) are averaging 20.3 turnovers a game, a number Vogel has already acknowledged needs to be cut significantly.
Vogel is also trying to figure out lineups and rotations without Granger. Gerald Green, signed as a free agent in the offseason, started the first three games. He’s scoring 9.8 points and grabbing 4.3 rebounds, but giving up 2.5 turnovers per game. On Monday night at San Antonio, Sam Young moved into the starting lineup and finished with three points and three rebounds in a 101-79 loss.
Granger’s absence has been more notable in the closing moments of games.
Indiana looked out of sync in the final minute last Friday at Charlotte and couldn’t take advantage of several chances to win at lowly Charlotte. Instead, they wound up losing 90-89 – the Bobcats’ first win in 24 games. The next night, against Sacramento, Indiana missed two shots at the end of regulation and two more at the end of the first overtime before finally getting past Sacramento 106-98 in double overtime.
Even opponents have noticed a difference.
“Maybe if you have him (Granger) he closes that (Charlotte) game out,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “Not having your go-to guy can change a lot of things.”
But instead of building this team around a superstar, the Pacers decided to reinforce their bench. They’re hoping that will take them go deeper into the playoffs than last season’s second-round exit against Miami.
That decision could serve them well now.
David West, Paul George and George Hill are all scoring in double figures. All-Star center Roy Hibbert is averaging 8.8 points 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. And Tyler Hansbrough and Lance Stephenson have given the Pacers good minutes off the bench.
So Vogel remains optimistic.
Granger has averaged 18.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in seven NBA seasons.