Granger will only consider 2012 a success with a deep postseason run
Despite not playing on the court, Pacers' forward Danny Granger hasn't been hard to spot the last couple of games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. After all, it isn't very hard to miss the 6"8 male walking around in a Miami Vice colored jacket as he courted as he rested during the Pacers 92-87 home finale loss to the Chicago Bulls.
"I got a lot of wardrobes that I will be wearing for the games," said Granger with a smile. "So I'm going to be looking good and after."
Granger has looked spot-on while outfitting himself in Pacers gear in the month of April, as he averaged 23 points per game during a span from April 1-19th when the Pacers won eleven of twelve games. That hot streak helped spur the Indiana Pacers to a 42-24 record, good enough for third in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the opening round against the Orlando Magic (37-29). It's safe to say that this has led the Pacers to having a much different mind-set from the end of the 2010-11 season, when the Pacers were just happy by sneaking into the eighth seed with a 37-45 record before ultimately losing to the Chicago Bulls 4-1 in the opening round.
"We are not just satisfied to be here," said Granger. "Honestly, for us to have a successful year and say we had a good year, we have to go deep into the playoffs. That has been our goal this year, and last year it was different. This year we have totally different goals."
If the Pacers were to make a run deep into the postseason, it will be something that they have known is coming, but perhaps from an outsiders point of view might be seen as underdogs. With only one nationally televised game all season long, the Pacers have lacked the buzz and attention that much of the other fifteen teams in the NBA have received. Granger doesn't seem to be bothered by this outlook, but feels that the team has recognized the lack of noise their results have made.
"We do and it's been like that for a long time," said Granger when asked if the Pacers feel unnoticed this year.
"Not to mention we are in a small market and we have been losing for the past four or five years, so we have gone unnoticed. So I think this is the time when we put Indiana back on a national scale."
For the Pacers to do that they will have to first make it through the Magic, who enter the first round short-handed without their perrenial all-star and franchise player in center Dwight Howard. With the man nicknamed as "Superman" in the line-up, the Magic defeated the Pacers three times this season, with the most recent being an Orlando 107-94 victory at home.
So despite the missing Howard, the Pacers know how dangerous this Magic team can be.
"They are maybe a wounded lion that can still fight back and kill you," said Granger who has averaged 19.3 points against the Magic this season.
"So you can never take an NBA team lightly. Especially when they lose their best player, because a lot of teams player better sometimes when that happens. But in the playoffs they are going to be playing all out, so I wouldn't say that any team is going to be easy."
Vogel ready for coaching challenge against Stan Van Gundy
In his second-year as head coach for the Indiana Pacers, Frank Vogel has surprised many with his results to the point that he could be a potential candidate for the 2011-12 Coach of the Year award. Vogel will be the first to give the credit to the players, his staff, and the fans of the Pacers for his success, but make no mistake about it. Vogel has never been one to shy away from a coaching challenge, which is perhaps he had such a smile on his face when talking about facing off against one of the best thinkers in the game in Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy.
"Teams reshape and the Orlando Magic have reshaped," said Vogel. "They are playing good basketball and they have one of the best coaches in the NBA who always has his team prepared and ready to go, no matter who is in uniform. This is going to be a tough challenge for us."
Van Gundy has been under a watchful eye and must scrutiny this season due to the ongoing saga and off-court battles involving Dwight Howard, but since the center has been missing from the Magic's line-up, the Magic have gone 4-6 whlie finishing the season Thrusday night in a 88-76 loss in Memphis.
But Vogel knows that in a seven-game playoff series this his Pacers will be facing off against a Magic squad that will be much more difficult to compete against then how they finished in the stretch run of the season.
"There is the familiarity that your opponent has with you and that you have with your opponent," said Vogel. "It is completely different then in the regular season. You have to be able to compete on the ball while understanding that the other team knows what you are trying to do. It is just a different level of intensity."
That energy that seems to rise during the postseason is one of the reasons the Pacers may miss guard Leandro Barbosa. After suffering a sprained ankle earlier in the week, Barbosa is listed as day-to-day with a spained ankle and may miss Saturday's game. Barbosa has played 22 games with the Pacers since being traded from Toronto, and seamlessly fit into the team's offense scoring 8.9 points off the bench in 19.8 minutes of play each game.
The Pacers may miss that depth in scoring in the opening game, especially if J.J. Redick (11.6 ppg), Jameer Nelson (11.9 ppg.), or Ryan Anderson (16.1 ppg.) catch fire behind the arc.
"It is a very daunting challenge," said Vogel about attempting to limit Orlando's three-point shooting.
"They have one of the most unique systems in the NBA, a very dangerous system. Their spread pick-and-roll attack, and the way they spread you out with Ryan Anderson being the key cog in that spot with the forward being lifted, it is very challenging. There are some things we have to adjust with our scheme any time we are playing a spread floor like this, but I think we have really improved on it over the course of the year. I feel good about our scheme and how we are going to guard them."
Old dog David West hopes to take advantage of team's opportunity
First-year Indiana Pacer David West was brought on to the squad this past off-season to give this team a sense of leadership that could lead a group of young players to reach their potential. Never one to not get too high after a big win or be afraid to mention what's going wrong after a tough loss, West has helped this squad reach well past most people's expectations of this team.
For West though, who finished the regular season averaging 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds, none of the Pacers success came to any surprise.
"We have been fairly healthy, which is key," said West about the third-seed Pacers.
"I thought we came together in terms of our cohesiveness at the right time. I thought we rode the wave, but I don't think we are surprised about where we are. We have always thought we had enough depth and talent to compete for one of the top spots in the East."
During West's previous nine seasons in the NBA he made the playoffs three times in New Orleans, with the Hornets seasons finishing in the second round twice, once reaching a game-seven against the San Antonio Spurs in 2008. That squad finished with a 56-26 record that was good enough for second in the Western Conference, and perhaps has been West's best shot at winning an NBA title throughout his career.
So that's why West has been very adamant to his teammates that though the core squad of the Pacers is young, a chance to be on a team this talented is can't be taken lightly.
"These opportunities don't come as often as people think they do," said West. "There are only eight teams on each side that get a crack at this every season, so you have to take advantage of it when it is here. You don't know this this can come again."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times