But it just might’ve given life to the Pacers’ bench.
Uncertain when (if?) Danny Granger will play again, facing a second unit in a prolonged funk, Frank Vogel turned to what amounted to his last option for a spark – Gerald Green.
And the gifted but erratic young wing took flight in Cleveland Monday night, racking up 20 points and six rebounds in 23 minutes as the Pacers snapped a two-game losing streak with an authoritative 111-90 victory over the Cadaverliers.
This season was supposed to represent Green’s best chance to reclaim an NBA career. The Pacers signed him to a relatively generous free agent contract (three years, $10.5 million) and he opened the season as Granger’s replacement in the starting lineup at small forward.
That lasted three games.
Green played regularly off the bench the first couple of months and that didn’t go so well, either. As his productivity dived (prior to Monday night, he had shooting percentages of .342 overall and .288 from the arc), Vogel sent him to the bench.
That 20-point outburst Monday night exceeded Green’s total output of the previous two months: 17 points in a scant eight appearances.
It wasn’t so much the volume as the importance. The Pacers were clinging to a 45-41 lead when Green caught fire, hit a couple of long 3-pointers and sandwiched a Tyler Hansbrough three-point play (more on him in a minute) with an alley-oop dunk and the Pacers suddenly were up 56-41 and the game was basically over before intermission.
Here’s the thing: we know Green can really dunk, and can hit the occasional 3-pointer. What we don’t know is if he can play.
Will he make his defensive rotation in time to be there when a teammate needs him? Will he move his feet to stay in front of his man? Will he be in the right spot in the offensive sets? Will he rebound, move the ball, dive for loose balls and generally show interest in the parts of the game that do not show up on SportsCenter?
If so, he could provide an invaluable element to this team with his energy and athleticism. If not, well, he’ll always have Cleveland.
FOR STARTERS, HANSBROUGH PRETTY GOOD
Almost as mysterious as Green’s season has been that of Hansbrough. Wildly unproductive off the bench, he has played exceptionally well in two starts. With David West out with a lower back sprain Monday, Hansbrough had 18 points and 11 rebounds in 23.4 minutes.
In exactly the same playing time in his only other start Feb. 13 against Charlotte, he had 19 points and 10 boards.
In 65 games off the bench this season, he has averaged 15.7 minutes, 6.2 points and 3.9 rebounds, shooting .419. In two starts, he has averaged 23.4 minutes, 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds, shooting .560.
“When you have a guy like David West, your minutes are going to be sporadic,” Hansbrough said. “It’s a different mentality when you come off the bench.”
West is questionable again for tonight’s game against Orlando, so Hansbrough may well have another chance to show what he can do in longer stretches of minutes.
GRANGER COMING BACK GRADUALLY
In his second attempt at a comeback, Granger is being brought along more gradually.
Cleared to resume activity, Granger will work out on his own and practice with the team this week. Vogel said he is not likely to play in the next three games, which suggests a possible target date of next Monday, March 25, against Atlanta.
Granger missed the first 55 games of the season with left knee tendinosis, returned to play five games but recurring knee pain has kept him out the past seven games.