So, the Pacers didn’t look so hot in Atlanta. It happens. Over the course of an 82 game season, there are just going to be nights where nothing is working. That was one of those nights. I don’t tend to look too deeply into those sorts of losses. Though, to listen to callers to radio shows, this has opened a whole new referendum on Danny Granger and the value of Lance Stephenson.*
*The argument is that Lance is far more valuable than anybody realizes, even after his frankly amazing start to the season. And whether or not Danny Granger has a place on this team now that Paul George has taken that leap to top five player status (or something in that range, anyway).
To all that, I can only think of one word: relax. Chill. Or maybe two words: slow down. Cool it. Calm down. I promise, it will be okay. Lance Stephenson is a huge asset to this team, but it really made no difference if he was out there against the Hawks or not. The Pacers were just not going to win that game. It happens. I know, we were really spoiled by the first month or so, so every loss feels like a catastrophe. It’s really not, I swear. Right now, they are still well on pace for a sub-20 loss season. That, you would think would be good enough for a one seed in the East, two at worst. I think we can live with either.*
*Clearly you would like to have home court against Miami, but we came awfully close last year with a not-yet-exalted Paul George and a non-existent Danny Granger without home court, so I don’t know that I would be upset with a two in the playoffs.
So, yes, I do think that Lance has thoroughly earned his starting spot over Danny. Especially considering that Danny Granger practically missed an entire season. It is going to take time for him to truly resemble the player he was before he went down. It would take time for anybody. We’ve seen flashes, but I don’t know that we’ve seen it for an entire game yet. It will come. Then there are the naysayers that claim he can’t conform to the role the teams needs him to play, that he is strictly a volume shooter who will kill the great team that has been put together. I don’t really understand where that criticism is coming from. Sure, that’s what Danny Granger has been in the past, but that’s also what the team required him to be in the past when there were no pieces around him. He has had stretches of brilliant defensive play when the team absolutely needed him. Watching him body up and shut down Chris Bosh when Bosh was still with Toronto springs to mind. He also plays better defense on LeBron than Paul George does, in my opinion. They’re roughly the same size, George and Granger, but Danny is quite a bit stronger. That’s why I’ve written before that I would love to see Granger guarding James and George on Wade. George on James and Stephenson on Wade clearly works well enough,* but I think this team can do better if we can at least get good stretches of Granger and George together.
*With breaks of Stephenson on James to give PG a break. Stephenson isn’t really tall enough to guard him, but he is strong enough. Good enough to work as a spare tire.
So I wonder. How can you decide that Granger can’t conform to a new role? He played the role the Pacers asked him to before. I think he cares enough about winning that he can play a somewhat reduced role. Hell, he very well might embrace not having to put the entire team on his back every single night. I’m sure that gets a little old after a while. Maybe he won’t, maybe I’m wrong. But I just don’t think there’s any evidence there to say that he won’t change or conform. The Pacers are in a much different spot even from two seasons ago. Everybody’s role (except for maybe David West) has changed. Granger is a pretty smart guy. He holds a degree in civil engineering. That’s not exactly education.* I’m sure he understands how teams and players evolve.
*It’s not my decision! I swear!
The Pacers will give it another go tonight against the Wizards at home, and I have no worries about them getting back on track. Then, after they presumably take care of business, the Colts will have their turn on Saturday night. It’s setting up to be a pretty nice weekend.
Oh, and for anybody who hasn’t already heard, you probably won’t hear anything out of me the week of St. Patrick’s Day, as I’ll be visiting Nelson (who was going to write a guest column about following sports while abroad, but that never came through. . .yet) in Ireland. Pretty cool, right?