Also, I just felt I had nothing constructive to add about the trade of Danny Granger. I think Evan Turner will do just fine in his role as back up wing. I wasn’t a huge fan of Turner’s at Ohio State, and I certainly haven’t been converted during his time at Philadelphia. Between this trade and the Andrew Bynum pick up, my faith in The Legend is certainly shaken.
I just truly feel like Danny Granger deserved better. He poured a lot into this team when there was little else around him. It turns out you just don’t win that many games with Travis Diener and Troy Murphy in the NBA. But he still played his heart out and he played with fire and swagger, letting this team pull itself into the playoffs probably a year early and twice giving much better teams every bit they could handle. He seemed content and happy to fill the reduced role the Pacers had asked of him coming back from injury and with the rise of Paul George and Lance Stephenson.* As always, Danny did and said all the right things the team needed him to. I hope he finds a new NBA home once the 76ers buy him out, which seems to be the plan. I would rather that new home not be Miami, as some rumors have suggested.** But, if so, it wouldn’t change my opinion of him. Unless he pulls a Mike Vick or Ray Lewis/Aaron Hernandez, neither of which I see happening, I will always be a huge fan of Danny Granger and deeply appreciate what he did here. Not only in bridging together two very successful eras, but for all the work he put in during all those years when the Pacers weren’t drawing enough fans to fill your average Big Ten arena.
*And, really, Stephenson is the real key here. You might remember that Granger and PG were starting together before the injury. It was Lance showing that he is a starter you can depend on that made an injury-depleted Danny expendable.
**Not any Miami Heat players, though. I guess they got their feelings hurt when the Pacers did too well.
Now, I did actually watch the Pacers last night. My attention had been drawn away from them because of the Winter Olympics, but now things are back on. I initially was pretty concerned about the Pacers, because they didn’t seem to be bothering with any real defense in the first half. But they then exploded in the second half and had the game sealed away by the start of the fourth quarter. My first thought about writing this was to really get on the team for being in cruise control against bad teams and how that will come back to bite them in the end. I really was not happy about it. But then I thought a little more deeply into things. Isn’t this what this team has done all year?
This team from the very first game has been utterly dominant in third and fourth quarters as a whole. Paul George especially has been a second half player. And you know what? It has worked just as well against good teams as it has bad teams. Sure, they’ve lost a little more often as of late, but this is the same MO the team was operating under when they went 25-5 over the first two months. This is what works for them, and I’m sure their grinding defense has a lot to do with that. Besides, basketball games don’t really start until halftime, and that is especially true in the NBA. The first half is all about feeling out how the game is going and what each team is going to do. The second half is when things get serious. And when things get serious, this team just plain gets good.
So, am I worried about the Pacers? No, not particularly. Nothing has happened that makes me think this team is no longer a serious championship contender. Of course, this team has very clearly and very regularly let the world know they aren’t content with just strolling into the playoffs and seeing where things go. Their goal is no less than getting that number one spot in the East. At the moment, they’re two games in the clear for that goal. Miami is gunning for that spot, too, probably more than they have for a while just because they know the Pacers want it. There’s really only about a month left to go in the season, thanks to the few games in April and how spaced out they are. The home stretch, at least between the Pacers and Heat, is going to be awfully interesting. Larry Bird has made some eyebrow-lifting moves as of late. Here’s to hoping these moves prove to be as magical as most things basketball tend to be with him.