By Rob Mahoney
With the East's second seed safely within the Pacers' possession, not much attention has been paid to the rather important absence of Danny Granger. In the first week of November, Granger was given a recovery timetable of "up to three months" following a treatment of his patellar tendinosis. It has since been four months going on five, and Granger has played in just five games. Many expected Granger's return to be a welcome midseason boost for a team with lowly offensive output, but the expectation has now changed. Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star now characterizes Granger's status as follows:
Red flags went up when the Pacers announced two weeks ago that Granger would be shut down again because of “above average” soreness in his knee after attempting a shot against the Chicago Bulls on March 3.
Granger was cleared to resume on-court activities earlier this week. He was expected to go through a workout at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday when the rest of the team had the day off.
The Pacers hope to have him back for the playoffs.
Indiana has fared rather well in Granger's absence, and even managed an above-average offense over the last 20 games, per NBA.com, after previously ranking near the bottom of the league. But ultimately, Granger may represent the difference between the Pacers merely competing with the Heat and actually challenging them in a potential playoff series. The return of an All-Star caliber player is a hell of a thing to drop in the lap of a successful team at such a late juncture, but Granger's setback has left Vogel with little choice. Still, the Pacers at least have the benefit of a relatively manageable expectation when it comes to Granger's gradual reintegration. As much as Indiana could use his scoring and another viable rotation player, this is ultimately a sound, balanced team that has won nearly 62 percent of its games this season without him. Each of the Pacers' core players has stepped up in some way to make that possible, and, in the process, they have collectively eased Granger's transition back into the lineup and mitigated the sense of urgency surrounding his return.