Adding a former All-Star is always good, but team dynamics often complicate things. While the Indiana Pacers certainly have no problems with bringing forward Danny Granger back into the fold, the arrangement will likely take some time to work out after Paul George and Lance Stephenson rapidly expanded their respective games in his absence.
Speaking with Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, Pacers president Larry Bird helped explain why he thinks Granger's extended absence should temper short-term expectations:
"He doesn't work hard enough (in the offseason)," Bird said. "He's not a guy who'll push himself to the brink like a lot of our guys do. He works hard but he doesn't push himself. That's why he starts slow every year and he just works his way back. Now this year, he's been hurt, so it's a different deal."
Some might interpret that as a mild knock against Granger, but Bird offers huge praise for the forward just a couple of paragraphs later.
"You know how I feel about Danny," Bird said. "He brings so much more to our team than people realize. Watching the game Friday night, our team finally looked complete. Just his toughness, his ability to shoot the ball from the outside. What we're going to need is for him to defend. It all boils down to how he defends, and that'll determine how many minutes he gets."
Given that George and Stephenson are such strong defensive players, Granger will need to keep up on that end to carve out on a role on Frank Vogel's defensive-minded squad. However, there's little doubt within the Pacers organization that his return could be the difference against Miami this season.
Brook Lopez, Jeff Taylor suffer season-ending injuries
A pair of major season-ending injuries were announced Saturday. The Brooklyn Nets will miss big man Brook Lopez for the rest of the season with a broken foot, while the season of Charlotte Bobcats small forward Jeff Taylor ended due to a ruptured right Achilles.
Both players suffered their respective injuries earlier this week. Taylor played only a few minutes before leaving in the first quarter Friday against the Detroit Pistons. Lopez played 44 minutes in Brooklyn's overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday
It's unclear exactly when Lopez got hurt, but he was caught by television cameras rubbing his foot on the bench in the second half against Detroit:
You can see Lopez rub the area of his foot that's hurt on this play. Didn't come out and played the final 9:53. http://t.co/pGNSqzsuf3— devin kharpertian (@uuords) December 21, 2013
Playing through the injury presumably didn't help Lopez, particularly given that he's dealt with similar issues before. Let's hope this isn't a recurring thing for the Nets big man, as Brooklyn doesn't really have the resources to replace his production.
As for Charlotte, it appears they'll be taking the wait-and-see approach to dealing with Taylor's absence. He had been starting in place of the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Bobcats won't make deals after losing Taylor
The Charlotte Bobcats will be without Taylor for the remainder of the 2013-14 season after he suffered a ruptured right Achilles on Friday night, but coach Steve Clifford is reportedly happy with the guys already in-house.
Clifford said he's comfortable with Tolliver and CDR, with help from Henderson, at small forward until MKG comes back.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) December 21, 2013
This seems a little surprising given the Bobcats are also without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is recovering from a broken hand, but Anthony Tolliver and Chris Douglas-Roberts could be decent stopgaps. Until MKG can come back to fill the small forward spot, it looks like the Bobcats will be going with a committee approach at the position.
Deng, Butler, Hinrich out for Bulls-Cavaliers
The Chicago Bulls will be seriously shorthanded Saturday night as they face the Cleveland Cavaliers after announcing Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich will be sidelined. All starters for the injury-plagued squad, their absences leave the Bulls rolling a bare bones crew against Cleveland.
As Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago reports, Deng likely won't be back until Christmas Day at the earliest. He's been dealing with a sore Achilles and said he's been using a walking boot to stabilize the area around the injury. Butler is dealing with foot issues, but tests revealed no major damage so he's also expected back soon.
Back problems have sidelined Hinrich for the past four games. Without these three in the lineup, expect the Bulls to start D.J. Augustin, Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell alongside usual suspects Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.