Training camps I (in Las Vegas) and II (in New York) are distant memories. The scrimmages (three) and exhibition games (four) are done. The suitcases can be unpacked for a couple of weeks.
The FIBA World Championship begins Saturday in Istanbul, Turkey, for Danny Granger and the U.S. team, which opens against Croatia and former Pacers second-round pick Stanko Barac at 7 p.m. (live in ESPN Classic, re-aired at 11 p.m. on ESPN2).
With the event starting tomorrow, I arranged (not as simple as it sounds) the following exclusive Q&A session with Granger. In the new media world of instant communication, sometimes the old methods work best. I e-mailed the questions to Craig Miller, the PR man for USA Basketball, who passed them along to Tim Frank, a PR man for the NBA, who asked the questions after practice this morning (which began at 5:30 a.m. local time), recorded the answers and sent them along via good, old-fashioned e-mail.
Q. Even though you've been with the team for several weeks, does making the final roster for the World Championship have special meaning now that it's official?
A. Yeah, I think it's a great accomplishment to be on the team and to play for a gold medal.
Q. What role do you anticipate filling for the U.S. in the Worlds?
A. Whatever role is necessary, whether it's be a defender, be a shooter, a scorer, whatever role, I think everyone on the team falls into different roles than what you're accustomed to being on your own team.
Q. Having seen several strong international teams in exhibition games, how tough do you believe the competition will be?
A. I think it'll be pretty tough. International basketball has come a long way so the players overseas are a lot better than they were 10 years ago.
Q. How important is it to you and the U.S. players to win the first gold medal in this event for the U.S. since 1994?
A. It's very important. We're trying to re-establish American dominance on the sport of basketball.
Q. Your production in the exhibitions has been up and down (Granger totaled 38 minutes, five points and nine rebounds in three appearances). How do you feel about your game, and ability to contribute, heading into the tournament?
A. I think it's OK. It just depends on what the coaches want from me is what I'll try to do.
Q. What impact do you believe this experience will have on you as an NBA player?
A. A great impact. It shows you how other successful players do things, how they interact, their work ethic and what-not. You always can learn something from other players.
Q. You've become something of a globetrotter the past few summers, including the trip to China last Fall. Any personal non-basketball highlights of this current tour?
A. Madrid, Spain, was an absolutely beautiful city. The good, the culture there – I speak a little Spanish so that helped me a little bit. I really enjoyed Madrid.
Q. Are you excited to get the tournament started?
A. Definitely, I'm glad the exhibition games are over so we can start playing some games that really mean something