Danny Granger's role on the Indiana Pacers isn't what it was last year, when a soon-to-be NBA champion Miami Heat squad sent Frank Vogel's team fishing. A knee tendon issue this season has kept Granger out until two games ago, but into the void left by Granger stepped 22-year-old Paul George.
Now, it's George who is Indiana's leading scorer. Now, it's Granger who will be the sidekick. And that's OK.
Granger told Fox Sports' Bill Reiter that he's fine with the new look of Indiana, which by the way is still winning. The Pacers have at least two wins against the Heat, the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls this season:
"I think the biggest deal about it is the assumptions since I was coming back that there'd be a competition between us, when it's actually the opposite," Granger told Fox Sports. "So I'm 30, you know, I have no problem -- I've been in the league eight years -- I have no problem passing the mantle to him, to leave the team to Roy and George."
Granger's name did pop up in some trade rumors before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, but the few whispers paled in comparison to other teams shopping their tier-two stars. With the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement in place, teams were doing everything they could to get young players in return for bigger contracts, especially if they were winning teams who could still succeed without those heavy loads on their respective wallets. The Rudy Gay trade saved the Memphis Grizzlies money, for example, but chemistry issues there could have made it necessary as well.
In Indiana, there are no such issues. Granger and George have always been close, and as Reiter writes, Indiana general manager Larry Bird even phoned the elder player to see if the team should look into drafting George, who before being drafted No. 10 overall by the Pacers in 2010, was Granger's workout partner.
It's turned out well. And if there's anything to prove that George and Granger will continue to mesh well, look no further than last year's success. Or take a look at the numbers. Despite being the eighth-most used combination of two players in the Pacers lineups, Granger and George were No. 1 in the plus-minus statistic last regular season, according to the NBA.com Stats tool.
Granger still has a way to go. Through two games, he's shot a combined 2-of-17 from the floor as Vogel has eased him into the rotation.
Time is on the forward's side to find the high level of play he's played at when healthy. Also on Granger's side is George, who in his first All-Star season has the Pacers looking like as dangerous of a darkhorse team to make some postseason noise as any other in the NBA.
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