Danny Granger was a key reason the Pacers were supposed to be better this season — whether starting or coming off the bench, this is a former All-Star who can score the rock and add another offensive weapon to a team with the best defense in the league.
However, a calf injury has sidelined him all season. Oh, the Pacers have been better, clearly one of the league’s elite teams, but they have done it without Granger.
Until Friday. He told the Indy Star he almost certainly will be back.
“There’s a good chance. A very good chance,” Granger said. “I’m working on it everyday.”
After shootaround in preparation for the Miami Heat, Granger said that if the Pacers were playing a lesser opponent on Tuesday then he would have tried to return tonight. However, Granger, who has missed every game this season with a strained left calf, described his only hindrance as conditioning.
“I’ll have a minutes limit, strictly because I have to play my way into shape,” Granger said. “We don’t have enough practice for me to practice my way into shape. It’s literally going to be in games where I am playing where I get in shape.”
Granger will start coming off the bench and eventually that will become a sixth-man role for him ideally, a scoring spark off the bench.
Also expect Granger’s name to come up in trade talks if he can play — he is an expiring $14 million contract. For the Pacers, if he fits in with what they do as a sixth man they can use him this year to make a title run then save money just by having him come off the books. If they get an offer they can’t refuse, they take it. Worst-case scenario is they bench him for the most part — and then they are still a title contender.
It’s a good problem to have trying to fit a 20 point a game scorer back into your rotation.
Thunder players were reportedly bothered by the relationship between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green last season.
The Warriors recruited Durant throughout the year, but that got complicated when Golden State met Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.
But Green says the players didn’t cross a line.
Green (hat tip: Erik Horne of The Oklahoman):
Me and KD weren’t really talking during the playoffs. During the playoffs, it’s a little different. More is at stake. So, we weren’t talking much, and that’s normal. So, I heard something come out where they said, “Oh, Kevin Durant and Draymond was talking during the playoffs.” They were lying. But if that’s what they want to believe, if that makes them feel better about themselves — and when I say “them,” I’m talking about whoever, whoever’s saying it — then believe it. But they’re wrong.
If Green and Durant kept their distance during the postseason, that seems reasonable.
Durant’s former co-workers shouldn’t have a right to dictate his friends outside work, but when there’s direct competition, it’s a little different. It’s fair to ask Durant to separate himself from Green then.
There’s still no perfect solution. Durant’s and Green’s prior relationship opened the door for questions. But suggesting Durant and Green never should have bonded in the first place is unrealistic.
So, there’s little left to do but hope Durant and Green handled it was well as Green said they did.
Kevin Durant might have left the Thunder, in part, because he grew tired of playing with Russell Westbrook.
But does that mean nobody wants to play with Westbrook?
Presented with that claim, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter refuted it strongly:
Of course, many players want to play with Russell Westbrook. He’s a great player and even better competitor. People want to be around someone so maniacal about winning and capable of delivering.
But there’s an obvious difference between Kanter and Durant. It’s much easier for a pick-and-roll big man than a superstar wing to play with Westbrook.
Westbrook tends to over-dribble, and he can be selfish. I’d understand Durant preferring a team with more ball movement like the Warriors.
Kanter doesn’t have the cachet to pick any team at any salary like Durant did. Of his options, Kanter is probably genuinely happy to play with Westbrook. And the Thunder should be happy to have Westbrook (as long as they do). His strengths far outweigh his flaws.
No scoring star seamlessly blend with each other. Even LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — close friends and one an elite passer — struggled to mesh early in their Heat days. It’s just hard when there’s one ball.
So, it’s unfair to kill Westbrook for this drawback to his game. Maybe he’d click better with another star who’s more aggressive than Durant. And it’s not even as if Westbrook and Durant failed together. Oklahoma City won a lot of games with those two.
Plenty of players would sign up to replace Durant as Westbrook’s partner in crime.
Amar’e Stoudemire — despite spending more time and having more success with the Suns — signed with the Knicks to retire.
Why not Phoenix?
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:
Stoudemire was linked to the Suns last year, but a return never happened.
It didn’t make more sense now. Phoenix already has 15 players, the regular-season roster limit. John Jenkins and Alan Williams have unguaranteed deals, but why waive one for Stoudemire? The Suns are semi-rebuilding, and Tyson Chandler already serves as a veteran big.
There’s a reason Stoudemire retired rather then sign somewhere. Maybe nobody wanted him.
But it’s also only July, and teams are still filling out their rosters. If Stoudemire wants to keep playing, he might have opportunities later, especially after the trade deadline. He’s just 33. There’s now reason to believe his retirement won’t stick.
Derek Fisher is already stumping for his second head-coaching job.
Fisher has done plenty since retiring as a player — getting hired by the Knicks, getting fired by the Knicks and in between being attacked by Matt Barnes and finding another controversy about player relations.
All the while, Fisher counted against the cap for the Thunder, his last NBA team.
Oklahoma City finally renounced him to sign Alex Abrines.
Albert Nahmad of Heat Hoops:
This is one of my favorite salary-cap quirks, explained in further detail here.
These are becoming fewer and further between, because teams are using cap room more frequently as the salary cap skyrockets. Gone are the days of a team operating above the cap for a dozen straight years.
There’s also even less utility in old cap holds now that a player must have played the prior season for a team to be used in a sign-and-trade. (Not that these holds were useful except the rarest of occasions prior, anyway.)
Fisher’s quick transition from playing to coaching helped make this an exception, allowing this weird (and trivial) transaction.