With all due respect to Frank Vogelís relentless optimism, the latest news on Danny Granger cannot be viewed as anything other than a major setback for both the individual and the team.
This is happening at the worst possible time for a Pacers team that desperately needs to be fine-tuning for the playoffs, not putting the rotation up on the rack waiting for a part to arrive.
After playing regular minutes in three games, and then only in the first half of two, Grangerís left knee did not respond well. He reported what Vogel referred to as ďabove-averageĒ soreness, underwent an MRI on Monday and missed practice Tuesday.
Wednesday, the Pacers sent out an advisory that said in part ďno new damageĒ was found but that Granger would go back on the shelf and be re-evaluated in a week.
The two operative phrases there were ďnew damage,Ē which suggests the old damage is causing this issue, and ďre-evaluated,Ē which doesnít mean heíll be playing again next week. It means theyíll see if he can play in a week. Given he was down more than four months before coming back, you have to wonder how much improvement can be expected in a week.
ďWeíre not looking at it like (it is a setback),Ē Vogel said. ďWeíre looking at it as being precautionary, understanding itís still a long season, thereís still a lot of time left. We want him to get back to 100 percent and this is the best way to do it. Weíre looking at it like itís hopefully going to be a short-term thing.Ē
It is a long season, but there isnít that much time left. The Pacers have 21 games remaining. By the time Granger is re-evaluated, the number will be down to 18. At that point, there will be just one month left in the regular season Ė a critical month for a team in a tightly packed Eastern Conference playoff race.
A couple of bad weeks could cost them the Central Division, homecourt advantage and any real chance of a deep playoff run. Nine of the next 14 are on the road, so the potential for a couple of bad weeks is real.
The thing is, what options do the Pacers have?
They could shut down The Granger Experiment, and that may be a stronger possibility in a week if he is unable to play. For now, however, the potential of what he could mean to the team in the postseason is too great to abandon before it is absolutely, positively necessary.
No, for the time being they must make the best of it, see if Sam Young, Orlando Johnson or even Gerald Green can bring something, anything off the bench. Even without Granger, the starting lineup is just fine. Itís the second unit that would benefit most from his return.
In the last six games, the bench has been outscored by 84 points, an average of 14 per game. The reserves combined to shoot 34.2 percent overall, 20 percent from the 3-point line. And Granger played in five of those games. The deficit in the 83-81 loss to Boston Wednesday was 29-16, keeping in mind the Celtics have been so decimated by injuries they signed three guys out of the Chinese league just to fill out their roster.
ďObviously, we all wanted him to come back and within a week be playing 38 minutes and being pain-free,Ē Vogel said. ďThat was the best-case scenario. This isnít anywhere near the worst-case scenario. Itís just part of the process, not as smoothly as we would have hoped but we still feel very confident heís going to give us a big lift down the stretch.Ē
Because that is still a possibility, it is not yet time to pull the plug on Granger. But the Pacers can ill afford to let uncertainty linger much longer.