The Pacers are a compelling team for the first time in more than a half decade. They played a competitive first-round playoff series against Chicago last season and are set to have a pile of salary-cap space when the NBA resumes business. Indiana is loaded with good, if not great, young players, making 28-year-old Danny Granger the elder statesman on a team that hopes to push the Eastern Conference elite.
Granger chatted with SI.com about his offseason, the Pacersí problems scoring in crunch time and his plan for a personal Batcave.
SI.com: Everyone loves your idea of taking Conseco Fieldhouse workers out for dinner during the lockout. How did you come up with it?
Granger: The biggest thing I miss about the NBA is the interaction I have with the workers and everyone else who is there. I had a few rituals Iíd do ó I have a secret handshake with one person and a really good relationship with all of them. I just thought itíd be a good idea if I could get them all together, take them to dinner and maybe do a raffle and bring in some teammates to help raise money for the workers.
SI.com: Wait, a secret handshake? You have to explain.
Granger: Itís right before I come out for the intros. There is an attendant who works right by this bathroom in the tunnel before we come out. No matter how many games I play, I get really nervous before every game, and so I have to go to the bathroom. Sometimes I donít actually go, but I still go in there. Itís just a routine. And when I come out, we slap a high five, and then we swing it down low and do sort of a knuckle bump. Sometimes we switch it up. Like if I have a bad game, we need a new handshake.
SI.com: Back to the dinner. Is it happening? Is it on the schedule?
Granger: Oh, itís definitely happening. Itís in the works. Right now, weíre looking at the first week of November. The only problem I can see is if the league and the Pacers say to the workers, ďYou work for the Pacers, and even if some of you only work part-time, you canít go to this event with the players.Ē Thatís the only way I can see where it wouldnít happen.
SI.com: You guys pushed the Bulls in the first round. Four of the five games were really close. But one theme that kept popping up was the trouble you guys had scoring down the stretch. What happened?
Granger: I think that was our immaturity. I agree with what you say happened. We didnít execute or run our plays the way we wanted. A lot of it had to do with the Bulls having the best defense in the league. But we have to be able to produce plays in crunch time.
SI.com: The team ran a lot of pick-and-rolls down the stretch of those games ó you screening for Darren Collison, you taking a screen from Roy Hibbert and other combinations. But the numbers say you guys were one of the least efficient pick-and-roll teams in the league. How can you get better?
Granger: Itís just a matter of working it in. To be an effective pick-and-roll team, you have to have good decision-makers. Iím not saying that we didnít have them, but I think we were just inexperienced in that scenario. We switched coaches during the middle of the season, and we switched our whole offense to implement more pick-and-rolls. Frank Vogel did a good job getting us on the same page, but you have to remember: In that series, we started Paul George, who was a rookie. Tyler Hansbrough was basically a rookie, since he was hurt his first year. Darren Collison was in his second year. Roy Hibbert is young.
SI.com: Do you like handling the ball in the pick-and-roll?
Granger: I do. Defenders canít go under the pick on me because Iíll just shoot from behind the screen. It also allows me to get into the lane a lot.
SI.com: Whatís the one part of your game you want to get better at this offseason?
Granger: Iím always focused on my ball-handling. The better you are with the ball, the better a playmaker you are. You can bring the ball to different places.
SI.com: Itís interesting that you bring that up, for two reasons. One: If you look at your teamís offense, you guys were near the bottom of the league in assist rate ó the percentage of baskets that come via assists. And two: If thereís a knock on your individual game, itís that you settle too often for mid-range jumpers and donít get into the lane. Ball-handling could help on both those things, but do you think those criticisms are fair?
Granger: Thatís fair. I do think thatís fair. One reason I donít get to the rim a lot is that I shoot a lot of threes. The system we had under coach [Jim] OíBrien really encouraged the three-point shot. But I do think the better you handle the ball, the more youíll get to the rim, the more chances youíll have to get fouled. You just get more opportunities that way.
SI.com: Will you shoot fewer threes under Vogel? Or about the same amount?
Granger: Iím definitely still going to shoot a lot of them. Iím a good shooter. But the system we have now, it gives me more opportunities to get to the rim. It gives me the ball in different positions ó more advantageous positions.
SI.com: It must be annoying to hear people in the media say ó like I just did ó that you need to get to the line more. Getting fouled hurts.
Granger: Oh, yeah, it hurts. Iím not going to lie to you ó it hurts. But in my mind, itís still the easiest way to get two points.
SI.com: What are you good at defensively?
Granger: The best thing I do might be my post defense. Iím pretty good. You can post a small forward or a power forward on me, and I can hold my ground pretty well.
SI.com: And what do you need to work on defensively?
Granger: I have a tendency to lose sight of my man. Iím always trying to be a help defender, but I canít lose my man.
SI.com: That must be a tough balance to strike. Your instinct must be to help your teammates.
Granger: You always have that mindset, to help your team. But you canít just let your man go. In the heat of the moment on defense, there are just so many things going on.
SI.com: Stars are supposed to recruit other stars. Have you talked to players, trying to sell them on Indiana? You guys have a lot of cap room.
Granger: Iím always recruiting. I know getting a power forward is at the top of our list. David West and Carl Landry come to mind. Nene, too. I have talked to David West and have reached out to Carl Landry, but he and I havenít gotten in touch yet. I havenít reached out to Nene yet ó heís out of the country. I reached out to Carlos Boozer last season, too.
SI.com: What did he say?
Granger: He said he would love to come, if the numbers are right. You know how it is.
SI.com: And now for the question everybody must ask you: How is the Batcave coming along? Is this still happening at your New Mexico home?
Granger: Everyone always asks me about the Batcave. Always. The only reason we stopped production of the Batcave is because of the lockout. But the Batcave is very much in effect. The plans are drawn up.
SI.com: I forget the exact nature of the Batcave. Is it based on the Batcave from any particular Batman movie? Or the old TV show? Or a mix of all of them?
Granger: Itís based on the Batcave from the first set of Batman movies ó starting with Michael Keaton. It will have a few aspects from the Christian Bale movies, like a drive-in pathway or tunnel that lights up as you drive through it. Itíll also have this kind of circular island, where you park your car on this big circle, and the circle spins, so that you never have to back the car out.
Granger: Iíll also have something where the car gets lifted up on that circle, like an elevator, so that it goes up a floor and actually sort of into my house. My ďBatmobileĒ will actually go into the house. Itíll be enclosed in clear glass near my gaming area.
SI.com: Youíre married, right?
SI.com: Does your wife think this is crazy?
Granger: Sheís OK, as long as it doesnít get too crazy. She gave up a long time ago at telling me the whole superhero thing is ridiculous.