Conrad Brunner
Pacers.com
http://my.nba.com/thread.jspa?threadID=5700002516

Granger taking ownership of lead role
Apr 10, 2008


If a singular moment can signal a profound change, Danny Granger took full ownership of his role as the face of the next generation of Pacers in the closing seconds of the victory over Atlanta Tuesday night. With the game well in hand and the closing seconds ticking down, Josh Childress took flight for a dunk attempt. Rather than shrugging it off, letting it go and taking the victory, Granger instead found a few extra inches of vertical and rose up to meet Childress for a resounding block.

As he turned to run upcourt, Granger showed just a bit of a smile and shook his head as if to say, "not in my gym."

With so many other things happening this season it's been easy to either overlook or take for granted Granger's evolution. Keep in mind, he wasn't even a full-time starter until the second half of last season. Now, he's on the brink of achieving full-fledged stardom. His game has grown in layers this year; first came the 3-point shot, then came the drives, followed by more productive rebounding and increased playmaking.

In the last 10 games he has scored (21.8), rebounded (7.0) and assisted (3.0) at the highest levels of his emerging career, which is to say he is becoming exactly what the Pacers hoped when he inexplicably slipped to the No. 17 pick of the 2005 NBA Draft.

"Danny's driving the ball well," said Coach Jim O'Brien. "He's not forcing drives if the drive is shut off from him taking it to the rim. He's finding his teammates. He shoots the heck out of the basketball but he's also shooting really well off the dribble, the little step-back jumper that he has. He's becoming a heck of a basketball player."

Let's not forget on a team otherwise devoid of defensive stoppers on the perimeter, Granger also has been charged with defending the opposing team's most threatening scorer every night out.

"I think Danny will reach his potential when he becomes a dominating defensive player and I think he has that capability and he needs to challenge himself to be that," said O'Brien. "I know you're asking a lot of a third-year player but so be it. People that have that much talent, their responsibility is increased."

The thing is, Granger isn't exactly getting carried away with himself. He knows what's expected and understands it isn't fulfilled when his team is struggling just to make the playoffs, regardless of his individual numbers.

"I always thought I was better defensively my first year, probably because thatís all that I concentrated on," he said. "I wasnít trying to score. I was just trying to defend. They put me on whoever, they said go guard him and I didnít have to worry about scoring. I always thought that was my best year, but as Iím becoming more of a scorer and a go-to player itís probably a C-plus."

There is progress to be made offensively, as well. He struggled early in the season in adapting to the passing game offense and often was something of a ball-stopper. As he has grown more comfortable in the system, however, Granger has started to develop the ability to make plays for his teammates. A lot of guys can score; what separates them is the ability to use their scoring threat to create opportunities for others.

"Iíve been trying to do that in these recent games by finding shots for my teammates and not always looking for my own shot," Granger said. "I think thatís probably the next step in my game."

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We are so lucky we drafted this guy.