Danny Granger does shooting drills, targets early February return

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While Danny Granger has been sidelined with a knee injury all season, the Indiana Pacers have been forced to find a new identity (or at least clarify the one they have). They’ve evolved into the best defensive team in the league and they have found enough points most nights — Paul George has taken a step forward as the offensive catalyst while David West has played well.

Indiana has evolved into a better team, one that should be able to almost seamlessly slide Granger back into the fold, improve the offense and suddenly look like the second best team in the East.

When does that happen? There were some good signs this week, tweets Mike Wells of the Indy Star.

At 24-16 the Pacers have the third best record in the East. That despite scoring just 98 points per 100 possessions, 29th in the NBA. Think about that for a second — the second worst offense in the Association and their defense has them 8 games over .500.

They could use the guy that gave them 18.7 points a game last season and was their leading scorer in the playoffs. Granger gives the Pacers a guy who can create his own shot on the perimeter and that will be huge. He gives them an option late in the clock when nothing seems to be working to get a better look — plus he will draw defenders and create improved looks for others.

If the Pacers offense comes up to just the league average, that would give them 4 more points per 100 possessions. Their point differential — points scored vs. points allowed per 100 possessions — would jump to fifth best in the NBA, better than everyone in the East save Miami.

They have the length and the defensive discipline to give Miami as much trouble in the playoffs as anyone in the East, if they can just get their offense clicking. Maybe starting in early February.

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.