|The Pacers began promoting swingman Danny Granger as the new face of the franchise last season when they put him on the team's media guide. |
Granger didn't do anything to hurt his stature with the organization when he averaged a team-high 19.6 points and started all 80 games he played in last season.
Granger picked a good time to have a career season. The Pacers have until Oct. 31 to offer him an extension but Granger will become a restricted free agent next summer if the two sides can't agree on a deal before the end of October.
Pacers officials and Granger's agent, Mark Bartelstein, have said neither party is going to press the issue.
"You always like to get something done, but at the same time, if we don't then Danny will just go into the season," Bartelstein said. "I think Danny's best basketball is ahead of him. He loves it in Indiana, the fans and the organization. We would love to get something done, but we have to see if there's a deal that makes sense for both sides."
It wouldn't be surprising if the Pacers waited until next summer before signing Granger to a long-term deal because they want to avoid overpaying him.
It wouldn't be out of the question for Granger to ask for a contract similar to the one Philadelphia gave Andre Iguodala (six years, $80 million) this summer since many say the two play a similar style.
The Pacers and Granger want to avoid having a dragged-out negotiation like the one Atlanta's Josh Smith went through over the summer. The two sides definitely don't want a situation like Chicago's Ben Gordon, who still hasn't re-signed with the Bulls.
—The Pacers are going back to where it all started for them in the preseason. Their first game is at the Pepsi Coliseum — where they played home games from 1967-1974 — in Indianapolis against the New Orleans Hornets on Oct. 8. The Pacers will wear retro uniforms and there will be a ceremonial jump ball with the red, white and blue ABA basketball.
"We are very excited about the opportunity to come back to our roots and play this game here," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "We'll take pride in bringing our modern-day Pacers back to this building."
—Larry Bird was part of the "Dream Team" that ran through opponents by an average of 43.8 points a game during the 1992 Olympics. The Pacers' president has heard the comparison between his team and the 2008 "Redeem Team", which featured Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and won the gold medal in Beijing.
"They'd give us a good run," said Bird, who averaged 8.4 points on the 1992 team. "There's too much talent on that team for them not to. We had more big guys than them, though. (Charles) Barkley was dominating in that type of game. But as far as saying who would win, that's not for me to say. That's for the media to give their opinion."
—Center Jeff Foster said he has already noticed a difference inside the locker room since forward Jermaine O'Neal was traded to the Toronto Raptors in late June. Foster said the seven new players have a chip on their shoulder and the returning players want to end the franchise's two-year hiatus from the playoffs.
"There are a lot of guys that are new to this and want to be part of the culture change," Foster said. "You have holdovers that are hungry... there's been a black cloud over us the last few years. We're ready to have a nice sunny day."
A lot of the change is because they don't have to deal with O'Neal's negative attitude toward the franchise anymore.
"It was tough because Jermaine really didn't want to be here the last couple of years," Foster said. "It was tough to become a team when your best player did not want to be on the team."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously things haven't gone the way many people expected since the brawl and Reggie (Miller) retired (in 2005). You would see that by how we played and the lack of support we got from fans." -– Center Jeff Foster, on the franchise's problems the past three years.
Roy Hibbert, C, 7-2, Georgetown — Drafted by Toronto but will be sent to the Pacers as part of the Jermaine O'Neal trade when it becomes finalized July 9. Hibbert is considered a fundamentally sound big man who is known more for his defense than his offense. He will immediately help the Pacers' horrendous defense.
Brandon Rush, G/F, 6-6, Kansas — Was drafted by Portland at No. 13 but sent to the Pacers for Jerryd Bayless and forward Ike Diogu. Rush can shoot from long distance, he's a good rebounder and can play multiple positions. He'll team with Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy to give the Pacers a solid three-man rotation at the swingman spot.
—The Pacers are standing firm in their belief that G Jamaal Tinsley won't be wearing an Indiana uniform this season. The team, which has publicly said it's time to part ways with the injury-prone Tinsley, has taken down his nameplate inside the locker room at Conseco Fieldhouse. New point T.J. Ford is using Tinsley's old cubicle in the locker room.
The Pacers still haven't found a team to trade Tinsley to. Team officials say they have no intention of buying out the final three years Tinsley's contract. The Pacers plan to tell Tinsley to remain at home if they can't trade him by the start of training camp on Sept. 30.
—The verdict is still out on how rookie C Roy Hibbert, who is not known for his athleticism, will fit into coach Jim O'Brien's up-tempo system.
One thing Hibbert can't be questioned about, though, is his work ethic.
Pacers coaches have raved about how hard Hibbert works and how receptive he is to criticism and praise.
Hibbert set an example for the rest of his teammates recently when he worked out with the coaching staff at Conseco Fieldhouse early in the morning and then caught a late-morning flight to New York for the NBA's rookie orientation. Hibbert will compete with Jeff Foster, Rasho Nesterovic and Troy Murphy for playing time at center this season.
—Pacers G-F Danny Granger represented the NBA at a basketball camp in Indonesia last month. Granger worked with 50 of Indonesia's top players at a camp at the new DetEksi Basketball League (DBL) Arena in Surabaya. He also did a clinic with 30 kids from an orphanage in Jakarta.
The Jawa Pos, one of Indonesia's largest newspapers, ran a story on its front page about Granger and named one of its versions the "Danny Granger Edition." Granger said he's open to returning next year for the inaugural Indonesia Development Camp hosted by the NBA.