The Danny Granger question is one that will hang over the Indiana Pacers to start the season.
Indiana was within one game of the NBA Finals last season with Granger in street clothes (he played just five games all season after a knee injury, his second in two years). Granger was an All-Star and the team’s leading scorer, but now everyone wants to see if he can blend his game in with the emerging leaders Paul George and Roy Hibbert.
To answer that question, first he has to get back on the court. Some preseason games could help with that transition, and in a wide-ranging Q&A with Dime Magazine Granger says he will be ready for some of those games (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
Dime: Are you restricted at all in the stuff you can do, or are you full-on right now?
DG: I’m still in the middle of my rehab. I’m in a six month rehab; I won’t be six months out until October 5th…so I’m progressing to playing — I’m playing now, but I’m progressing on schedule and I’m still in the midst of my rehab.
Dime: Do you think that October 5th date is within reach, and you’ll be able to play in the preseason to get back into the flow?
DG: Yeah. I anticipate playing in the preseason. I definitely do.
The return of Granger is one of the things that will make the Pacers better. I lean that he is going to be able to blend his game in with the other stars — he will score less per game than he used to, but he does give them a shot creator when the shot clock gets down to :05. He can start and Lance Stephenson — who was fantastic for Indiana last year — can come off the improved Pacers bench, or Granger can be a scoring spark sixth man. Either way works.
If the fit isn’t there? Granger is a $14 million expiring contract the Pacers can move for something that does fit. They don’t need him to be a dangerous playoff team.
But he would help.
Joel Embiid started for the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. The Game 3 matchup between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia was an important one with the teams tied, 1-1.
Embiid had previously vented his frustration on social media about the perceived slowness of his return to the floor from an orbital fracture.
Now, the Cameroonian big man is back for the Sixers and playing with a huge mask and goggles.
But the mask didn’t come without its problems for Embiid. It clearly affected his shooting and ability to handle the ball, as evidenced by a missed alley-oop in the second quarter, among other things.
There’s also the matter of how other players are treating Embiid and his mask. At one point, Embiid’s googles ended up on the floor and Heat forward Justise Winslow purposely stepped on them.
Embiid will have to adjust to using the mask since it’s unlikely he will be cleared to play without it soon. Hopefully he has some backups just in case the first couple sets get broken.
HAMBURG, Ark. (AP) — Authorities in rural Arkansas are investigating the theft of more than $50,000 worth of equipment from a farm owned by former NBA star Scottie Pippen.
Investigator Mark Griever of the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office says two tractors were stolen from the farm in Hamburg, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Little Rock. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pippen’s family is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
Griever says Pippen owns the livestock farm with his brother.
Pippen, who now lives in Florida, is a native of Hamburg. Pippen won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.
In the first two games against Boston, Jabari Parker is 1-of-7 shooting, has grabbed 15 percent of the available rebounds while on the court (low for a big expected to board), has more turnovers than assists, has been exploited on defense by Boston, and is -29. All in just 25 minutes.
Parker is also frustrated he isn’t getting more minutes and more of a chance to prove himself. From Stephen Watson of WISN News 12 in Milwaukee:
While there are questions about how Joe Prunty has handled the Bucks and their rotations in this series, more Jabari Parker is nobody’s answer. Except Parker’s. And Celtics’ fans. Parker can be as frustrated as he wants, he hasn’t played his way into more minutes.
Parker returned to the Bucks in January after rehab on his second ACL surgery and averaged 12.6 points per game. He showed some value, with an ability to score efficiently inside and shooting 38 percent from three, averaging 12.6 points per game. But he remains a below-the-rim player who struggles to defend, and in the playoffs that gets a guy a seat.
It’s going to be an interesting summer. Parker is a restricted free agent this summer and the Bucks do not see him as a core part of their future next to Giannis Antetokounmpo anymore, they are not going to come in with a big offer to keep him. However, his play (especially in the postseason) and injury history, combined with a tight free agent market, means he may not have many suitors at all. Is it possible a rebuilding team willing to take a chance — Phoenix, Atlanta, etc. — would come in with an offer higher than the Bucks would match? Yes, it’s possible. But it won’t be for a lot of years, just one or two as teams want to see if he can get right and become the player he once projected to be.
Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.
Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day. Embiid had been out with a concussion and orbital bone fracture.
Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play. And he is expected to start. How many minutes he can go remains to be seen.
This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.
The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.
It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.