Probably the only people that are going to either understand or appreciate what Iím about to say are going to be either old or appreciate rock guitarist.
Now after watching Danny play seven games and watching how he has progressed in each of the games, minus that dreadful performance in Brooklyn, it has become apparent to me that he is becoming the Eric Clapton of our team.
For those who donít know Ericís nickname is slow hand (or God if you get the reference) and Iíll try and put it in comparison.
He always hits the right notes, he always makes the right sound he just doesnít waste any excess energy in doing it and some donít like him because he doesnít burn up the strings with fast finger taps, hammer-onís and pull offís. In other words he is not Eddie Van Halen or Kirk Hammett. But what he is simply put is a maestro of the guitar.
Danny in his short time back to me is strikingly similar. He is always in the right spot, he has only really taken the open shot and he has done a very good job of keeping the ball moving. On defense I think he has been almost amazing considering where his stamina and knee should be at. But have you watched his hands? I swear today he had at least 3 deflections on top of the one steal he was credited with. But the one thing that impressed me today was his rebounding and gaining position for his rebounds. There were a couple of times that he didnít get the rebound because the shot went in but his positioning was such that had the ball gone out the only person that could have gotten it was him.
In short what Iím trying to say is that while Danny is not the flashiest he is a solid veteran who knows how to get the job done. Paul & Lance are the Eddieís and Kirkís of our team and they provide a lot of sizzle and show but it is almost a ridicules luxury to be able now to go to the bench and bring in a player of this caliber and oddly enough heís not even 1/8 of the player he used to be and still not probably Ĺ the player he can become again.
I say all of that to say this.
Our bench, which I was plenty pleased with prior to his return, is now almost obscene. Danny Granger & Luis Scola could be a starting front court for a lot of teams in the NBA, even good winning teams. They both are that good.
Then throw in C.J. Watson, who is better than any starting point guard we have had on our team before George Hill and since Anthony Johnson and well you can see that we have gone from the worst bench in the NBA to one of the very best and like I said about Scola early in the season and was right, Danny Granger is only going to get better. Unless there is some medical set back you can see Danny getting better each and every game.
Now is there a potential downfall to any of this?
Lance has played very well, phenomenal in fact. Actually Lance almost by himself tonight in the 3rd brought us back in that game. Lance deserves his minutes.
Lance also is a very emotional player and wears his emotions on his sleeves. He does not like being taken out of games and yes the other night when Frank put Danny in for that last second shot Lance was very upset on the bench about it, walked away from the huddle while it was still going on and had to be calmed by Rasual Butler.
Well tonight Danny was playing very well in the first half and it came time for him to come out and much to my surprise Danny grumbled going to the bench to Frank.
This is only after 7 games and he is not in anywhere near the shape he will be in. Come the end of February and he is back almost 100% what is it going to be like then. Now I did come to learn after the game that Danny is on a min. restriction so he may have been upset because he hit a time limit but even if he wasnít he had hit that time in the game where it was time for Paul George to come back.
Now again understand I am saying potential, I am not saying there is a sure fire problem here.
But we have several things going in our favor here.
1. This isnít a bad problem to have really. We have so much talent that we have to make time.
2. Trust in Frank, he has never steered this ship in the wrong direction
3. Trust in the character or our players, this isnít the Artest & OíNeal Pacers this is the Stephenson & George Pacer with solid veterans to help guide the way
Oh yea, also since Danny has been back Ian has been playing better. One probably has nothing to do with the other but so far itís just worked out that way.
I would just like to point this out for everyone. Al-Farouq Aminu was drafted # 8 in the 2010 NBA draft. Thatís right the same draft that saw Paul George go #10 and Lance Stephenson go # 40. Itís okay to laugh.
These next set of games scare me to death. We donít really face another major team until the Clippers in the middle of the month and now with Paul being gone I donít think you can consider them a major team either. It scares me because if we play this right we can put real significant distance between us and everyone else. But because we have started out taking these teams lightly or maybe they are just overly hyped to play us or a combination in between I canít say. But we only played a good second half tonight, played horrid in Toronto and played bad for 3 of the 4 quarters vs. the Cavs. We have got to start taking these teams seriously and put our foot on their throats early and put them to be by the 3rd quarter.
BTW, I canít begin to describe how fun it is to be the team that now can look down at almost every other team other than elite teams and nobody is more elite than we are.
One more thing that I want to point out. Sell out # 11 already. We had 10 all of last season.
I know Iím all over the place with this. Letís do some grades.
Paul George: A- How ridicules is it to say that a guy who scores 24 and grabs 10 boards and plays good defense and you can say that this wasnít one of his better games. Paul right now is in a shooting slump. It happens so we wonít harp on it but honestly that is why we have struggled a little the past few games, because shots that were automatic for him just a couple of weeks ago are now not finding their mark. No worries though, heíll get through it and weíll move on.
David West: B Solid yet unspectacular. Davis is kind of a hard matchup for him, the same is true in reverse though as well. Davis length bothers West some and God knows that Westís physical nature bugs the crap out of Davis. I got to set in different seats tonight so I could see up close and personal how much West puts that forearm deep into the chest of Davis.
Roy Hibbert: B- You know I appreciate the blocked shots, I do. But rebound the ball and for the love of God stop missing these damn bunnies at the rim. He played much better in the second half but that first half was brutal, he was totally outplayed by Ajinca. But then he hit a few shots in the second half and grabbed some boards.
Lance Stephenson: A Ironically Tyreke Evans was the player I always thought Lance reminded me the most of, now Evans just dreams that he were half the player that Lance is. When he sets his mind to it he is virtually unstoppable going to the rim and tonight in the 3rd quarter he decided he was going to the rim. Heís kind of slipped a little the past few games on his defensive assignments but overall I will reiterate what I said above, he took over in the 3rd and willed us to the lead.
George Hill: B Like West solid yet unspectacular. He held Holiday in check so he has that going for him and he was aggressive so there is that as well. Didnít really screw anything up but I wish he would have driven the lane a little more in an attempt to draw fouls, but when you have the leagues leading shot blocker there I can understand pulling up.
Danny Granger: A- Considering where he is at in terms of his conditioning I think he played a pretty outstanding game. I like the fact that he is very selective in his shooting knowing that he is only taking shots in the flow of the game. I also love that he gets to the free throw line and then once there he makes them pay. His offense is a little ahead of where I expected it to be but his defense has been much higher than I thought it would be. He spent a lot of time tonight on Evans and that is not an easy task for someone with a bum leg. Did you see him reach in there and force that jump ball? That should have counted as a block but it didnít.
Luis Scola: B+ My only complaint with Luis tonight was not with him but with Frank and itís not really a complaint but just a shrugging of the shoulders understanding that this is a problem we have. I think he should have played more min. but then I ask myself were should the min. come from? You arenít really going to take that many more min away from West so it is about were he is going to have to work with. His ability to hit that face up jumper has saved our asses so many times this season. His rebounding though has been superb lately.
C.J. Watson: B+ There are guys that just know how to play basketball and right now our three main bench players all know how to play. The best compliment I can give him is that when Hill goes to the bench I donít even care. Watson has a very high basketball I.Q. and he shows it every game.
Ian Mahinmi: B- Second best French player on the floor today. He didnít play bad at all really and he did a very good job of clogging up the middle. Now that Danny is here any offense you get from Ian is just gravy at this point so we really canít hold him just scoring 2 points against him.
Now on to Cleveland for the kill storm 3000 game.
Yes it is decided, we need to hear Kirk Hammett.