The first preseason game of any season is rarely an event.
Saturday comes the exception.
Two fallen stars will return to the court when the Pacers host the Chicago Bulls at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Danny Granger will be making his first appearance since March 3 (oddly enough, against the Bulls), when his attempted comeback from a chronic knee condition was shut down.
Derrick Rose will be in a game for the first time since April 28, 2012, when he sustained a torn left ACL against the Sixers in a playoff game.
“It’ll be his first appearance, my first appearance in a while,” Granger said. “You really don’t want to read too much into a preseason game. You’re really trying to build up for next month, but it’s good to be back on the court.”
Coach Frank Vogel said he planned to start Lance Stephenson and bring Granger off the bench, but that was not set in stone. For Granger’s part, worrying about his role will remain in the background until he can put rehab from April 4 surgery behind and move into the next phase of his return.
“Just to get comfortable to playing again, being back on the court. For me, that’s what this preseason’s going to be about, just getting comfortable,” he said. “I’m at the end of my rehab phase, so we’re still going through that and manage it the right away.
“I’m excited just to compete. I haven’t played basketball competitively in awhile so it’ll be fun just to compete again.”When Granger underwent the surgery, an option pursued only after two rounds of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) did not alleviate the pain, the prognosis was a four-to-six month period of recovery and rehab.
Today is the six-month mark.
“Coming back from a knee injury, whether it’s an ACL or what I had, it’s a confidence thing,” Granger said. “A lot of the battle comes in your head as far as ‘Can you do the things you used to do, will you be confident pushing off, do you want to dunk this, do you want to go get this rebound, do you want to cut off if it?’
“Those are hurdles all players have to face when coming back from a significant knee injury so that’s probably going to be my biggest hurdle toward the end.”
Granger was speaking for himself, but the words also applied to what Rose went through last season, when he was scrutinized for stubbornly refusing to come back late to help the Bulls in the playoffs.
Rose took the long view, stayed to his rehab, continued to build strength – and trust – in his knee, and looks to be back to his old self, if not better, this season.
He told the Chicago media Thursday the return “gives me a fresh start to prove myself again.”
Granger isn’t ready to start proving anything to anyone other than himself. Once he believes, he can set about convincing others.
>> This first look at the Pacers also will be the last for a while. After the game, they board a charter flight for a 10-day trip that brings preseason games against Houston in Manila, Philippines Thursday and Taipei Sunday. It’s part of the NBA Global Games initiative that took the Pacers to Beijing, China and Taipei in 2009 for a pair of exhibitions against the Nuggets. Their next home game will be Oct. 16 against Dallas.
>> Assistant coach Popeye Jones had a big day Thursday, traveling to St. Louis to see the NHL debut of his son Seth, a heralded rookie defenseman drafted No. 4 overall by Nashville. And the big event just happened to fall upon Seth’s 19th birthday.
>> Vogel said he was pleased by the progress of the team’s first week of training camp. “Really excited about what we have were,” he said. “We’ve got a good basketball team, everybody seems to be really dialed-in and engaged, understanding the opportunity that we all have as a group. We’re pretty far advanced in terms of how much offense and how many defensive schemes we have in for this time of camp. It’s a credit to our veterans and the continuity we have with the guys coming back and those veterans helping the new guys.”
>> Granger isn’t the only player looking forward to Saturday’s game. Fresh off signing his max contract extension, Paul George is eager to get back on the floor.
“This game definitely should have some hype,” he said. “I’m going into this game not treating it as a preseason game. I’m going in to start my year off right.”
>> Aside from monitoring Granger’s status, the Pacers should be at full strength for the preseason opener.