Danny Granger's comeback season is off to a rough start.
The Pacers announced Monday that the 30-year-old forward will miss at least three weeks with a strained left calf. Indiana had previously said that Granger was unlikely to play in the season opener, but decided to shelve him even longer as a precautionary measure.
Via the team's release:
Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger will miss approximately three weeks as he rehabilitates a strained left calf injury sustained in the preseason. The length of time is a precautionary measure as the team wants to ensure Granger is physically ready to play in light of missing all but five games last season due to his knee injury. The rehabilitation time is strictly related to the calf injury.
Indiana has grown use to Granger's absence. Granger played only five games last season, when the Pacers went 49-32 and took the Heat to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals. With Granger sidelined, swingman Lance Stephenson emerged as a capable starter and Paul George blossom into Indiana's leading man.
Granger recently told the Indianapolis Star that he no longer sees himself as part of Indiana's core and plans to defer to the team's younger stars when he does return:
“This is the last year of my deal. When you say ‘face of the franchise,’ Paul got the contract but I think we’ve got three faces, honestly. Roy, Paul and David – mainly Roy and Paul are really the faces,” Granger said. “Our team’s not built like we’ve got a superstar who’s going to score 25 points per game. That’s not going to be our team ever. Not with the talent that we have.”
With Granger out, the Pacers will likely keep Stephenson in the starting lineup alongside George Hill, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert and use free-agent addition Chris Copeland and rookie Solomon Jones as backups at small forward. Indiana is hoping that Granger, a career 18.1-point scorer, can eventually return and be a part of the rotation, but it took the necessary measures this offseason to prepare for life without him.
In the same Star article, Pacers president Larry Bird said he could envision Granger playing a critical role despite Indiana's success without him last year:
“The only thing I told Danny is… if you get back to playing the way we know you’re capable of playing, I think the starting spot’s open there,” Bird said. “That takes nothing away from Lance because I think Lance is a starter in this league and last year he proved it that he can handle the position. The one good thing for our team is we can always put Paul George at three or two. But obviously we have to see how Danny comes back.”If Granger misses exactly three weeks, his first game would be against the Knicks on Nov. 20.