One by one, they stepped to the microphone and gave glowing testimonials.
“He looks awesome, to tell you the truth. He looks great,” said Roy Hibbert.
“I think he’s back to where he was, probably 98 percent,” said George Hill.
“Danny’s confident. Danny feels good about where he is and he’s hungry and he’s been aggressive. He’s got a little edge on him, and that’s good,” said David West.
“Danny’s ready to go. If we had a game tomorrow, my bet is Danny’s going for 30,” said Paul George.
But when it was Danny Granger’s turn at the Pacers’ media day Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the tone changed. There was more caution, more pragmatism. Given what the guy’s been through in the past year, it was the only approach he could take.
He will return to practice when the Pacers open training camp today at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but Granger is not yet ready to pronounce himself back. Nearly six months have passed since the April 4 surgery on his left knee, an operation that was viewed only as a last resort after two Platelet Rich Plasma treatments failed to alleviate the painful problem.
While his teammates enter the initial phase of preparation for what promises to be a season of championship contention, Granger knows he is still going through the final phase of rehab.“I don’t want to throw out everything and say ‘I’m doing this great, I’m doing that great’ and then have a setback,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. Yeah, I have been playing well, I’ve been doing everything, but I understand what training camp brings.
“Once I get through training camp, we can talk again.”
Until then, any debate about whether Granger or Lance Stephenson should start, or how Granger and Paul George will mesh, is wildly premature.
Granger will be able to participate in most, but not all, of the practices in training camp. The medical staff has a pre-determined schedule of days off to give the still-recovering knee the necessary time to recover from its increased workload.
“They’re monitoring to give him days off, not playing him five days in a row yet but there’s no reason to believe he can’t,” Coach Frank Vogel said. “They’re just being smart about taking steps.”
Once Granger is all the way back, assuming he is able, then Vogel will be able to gauge who best fits in the starting lineup.
“I don’t view it as a competition,” Vogel said. “Both of those guys are going to play starter minutes.
“We’re going to see how October plays out. This is going to be a different level of intensity for Danny Granger from where he was in September, and September was a different level of intensity than August. He’s still working his way back to game conditioning, game timing, game intensity and we’ll see how the month plays out.”
Both Granger and Stephenson are entering their final contract years, and the smart money is on the younger, less expensive player being part of the team in 2014-15.
There is much on the line for Granger in what could well be his final season with the Pacers. But only one thing matters to him.
“If it’s a matter of proving anything, it’s proving that I am healthy,” he said. “I’m still working my way there.”
>> Hibbert revealed the Pacers turned down an opportunity to be the focus of The Association, NBA TV’s reality show. “I think it was best for us to stay focused and not have cameras around all the time,” he said. “They asked us, some of us wanted it, some of us didn’t want it, and L.B. (Larry Bird) made the decision after hearing us out. We’re just going to keep going, doing what we need to do. It would be nice to have people see what we’re made of and not just see it in the playoffs, but we’ll take what we can get.”
>> Hibbert also unveiled a much more muscular physique after another summer of intense training. He said his weight was up to 290 but that he would probably lose a few pounds in training camp. His listed weight is 260.
>> Vogel said the coaching staff was considering some unusual methods for reinforcing the message that turnovers need to be reduced. “We figure 20 pushups for every turnover in practice,” he said. “You laugh, we just got out of a staff meeting where one of the ideas was every time somebody turns the ball over, leave the court and run a lap and your teammates have got to play five on four. A lot of creativity going on to try to keep our turnovers down.” The Pacers averaged 15.1 turnovers last season, 26th in the NBA. The figure climbed to 16.4 in the postseason.
>> So, is this a title-or-bust season? “This is not a go-for-it year, but a go-for-it time in Indiana Pacers history,” Vogel said. “This is going to be a window, over the next couple of years, where we feel like we’re going to have a chance to compete for a championship each year.”
>> Free agent signee Chris Copeland should be full-go for camp. The forward had his left knee ‘scoped on Aug. 2 to remove a loose body, with a 6-to-8-week recovery time. Friday marked the end of the eighth week. “He’s 100 percent,” Vogel said. “He may need a day off here and there but by and large he’s full-go.”
>> Though he is not a fan of the principle, Vogel said the Pacers will indeed install a zone defense this season for the first time in his tenure as head coach.
>> Hill offered up a humorous story about the perils of Twitter. “I tweeted a long time ago that I feel 10 pounds lighter and a media guy wrote a story that I lost 10 pounds and how that was going to help,” he said. “I wasn’t referring to actually losing 10 pounds, I was referring to taking a poop.”
>> Hill also said he wanted to be a more vocal leader this season, although it’s likely he wasn’t referring to music. Still he said he was “by far the best rapper on this team and if we sing, I’m the best singer on this team if I’m in the shower. … I’m really good, you have to see me one day. Well, you can’t see me in the shower but you can hear me in the shower. I’ll record it for you.”
>> Good thing they decided to turn down The Association.