Danny Granger understands the power of hard work. You don’t go from being a high school senior in New Orleans who doesn’t even get recruited by LSU to being an NBA All-Star in your fourth year making franchise-player dollars without working hard.
Granger also understands the power of expectations. Every ballplayer wants to improve whatever he needs to in order to win, but when you put specific goals out there in public, the expectation is now on you to produce. Some players use those expectations — and the fear of failing — to push them to achieve.
From his offseason vacation spot in Italy (franchise-player dollars, remember?), Granger put it out there that his goal going into next season is to become an elite defender. From the Indianapolis Star:
(LeBron) James and Dwyane Wade were the NBA’s top two scorers. They were also second and third, respectively, in Defensive Player of the Year voting because they embraced guarding the other team’s best player. Granger didn’t make the top 20 in voting.
It’s no surprise he’ll put an emphasis on becoming a lockdown defender this summer.
“LeBron didn’t always play defense and D-Wade didn’t always play defense,” Granger said. “Now they’ve realized to be good in this league or to have an elite team you have to play defense. Next year I’ll have more of a commitment to it because you kind of get zoned out.
“People are always talking about how many points I score and this, that or another. I get zoned out, even in games.”
The Pacers were 26th in the League in points allowed as a team (106.2 ppg), some of which could be chalked up to their up-tempo offensive style, but a lot of which was a result of them just not being a good defensive team. Coach Jim O’Brien basically lets his players do what the want on offense while focusing most of his coaching on defense. So if the players are dedicated and able, O’Brien will find the right scheme for them.
But that all starts with their superstar. Granger is better defensively than other elite scoring forwards like Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Carmelo Anthony, but he’s got a lot of room to grow into a lock-down guy. And the better he becomes, the better the Pacers will become at getting stops.
“You look at any organization that has succeeded, it always comes down to defense,” O’Brien said. “Kevin Garnett leading Boston … You can hear LeBron (during games) take pride in the way he challenges his team to constantly get the next stop. You can see it in his ability to guard the other team’s best player.
“It’s a natural progression of the All-Star wanting to see his franchise go to the next level.”
Granger — who was just given a spot in USA Basketball’s tryout/training camp for this summer’s World Championships — was actually drafted by the Pacers with the idea of him being a defensive specialist. Ron Artest took him under his wing as a rookie and taught him some tricks, but as the face of the team changed and Granger became more of an offensive focal point, his role changed into that of a scorer.
He’s got the skills to take on the LeBron/Kobe top-defender role (if his knees cooperate), but just as ‘Bron has been helped by Mo Williams and Kobe can sometimes rely on Pau Gasol, Granger needs enough offensive firepower around him to justify that move. If the Pacers can get him that legit #2 scoring option (Troy Murphy is The Man, but he’s more of a #3 as a spot-up shooting big man who can’t create his own shot), it’ll make his transition that much easier.
Do you think your franchise player has to be an elite defender?
Source: Indianapolis Star