Bird made no bones about it: He likes his team best with Granger starting and Lance Stephenson leading the second unit as a point guard.
“That’s what I prefer,” Bird said. “I’ve always respected Danny’s game. Like everybody else, I see his good and his bad, but I think the good outweighs the bad by a large margin
. I like his toughness. And I’ve always said you never lose your position through injury; somebody’s got to beat him out. Now, if Lance comes in and he’s a better player, that’s (coach Frank Vogel’s) decision.
“But I think we’re a different type of team when he starts. ... I think Danny and Paul (George, who signed a long-term extension Tuesday) are interchangeable. This makes us a better all around team. We’ll score more points with Danny and it’ll take pressure off the bench.
“My thing is, Danny can’t come back and think he’s a 20-point scorer. We don’t need that. We just need him to come back and play, hit the open shot, be tough. They (Granger and George) can co-exist; I don’t worry about that.”
The season-long question, then, will not only be how the pair plays together, but whether Bird tries to move Granger before the trading deadline. Here was my takeaway from a half-hour conversation: If Granger is playing well and the Pacers are winning, Bird will hold onto Granger and try to win a title this year. If he’s struggling and the Granger-George duo isn’t quite working, he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a deal by the trade
“I’ve talked to Danny about it; we definitely want to keep him,” Bird said. “But we’ve got to find a way to do that and it’s not going to be easy. I saw this coming four years ago. When we started getting better, I thought, eventually, somebody’s got to go. We signed Roy (Hibbert), David (West), Paul (George) and George (Hill), and we’re never going to go over the luxury tax, so you add it up, eventually, somebody’s got to go. Right now, we’re strapped a little bit. But I would like to see it through the year. If it’s working good, I’m going with it (keeping Granger).”