The Indiana Pacers were within one game of the NBA Finals last season, and after a summer that saw them improve their bench, they are going to be one of the best again next season. But they were missing their leading scorer over the previous five years after Danny Granger had surgery for patellar tendinosis in October. Dime spoke with Granger by phone on Wednesday where he was talking to media about his role in the NBA’s Dribble to Stop Diabetes multimedia effort.
Granger attempted to play in February this year, but that was quickly aborted after five games because he was still experiencing knee pain. Doctors told him to shut it down and he had surgery in March to remove scar tissue from the previous surgery. But now Granger is back and we spoke with him by phone about his family’s history with Diabetes â€” our own family history, and the Pacers’ title aspirations this season.
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Dime: Tell Dime readers about the Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign and your involvement?
Danny Granger: Dribble to Stop Diabetes is a national multimedia campaign developed by the NBA. And it’s basically to encourage NBA fans â€” and really anybody â€” to lead a healthy lifestyle and raise awareness about the risk for Diabetes.
Dime: We actually have family that struggles with diabetes, can you tell us about your personal connection to the disease?
DG: My grandfather has it. My father has been diagnosed with it as well as three of his brothers. So I have five family members that have it.
Dime: So it runs in the family?
DG: Unfortunately, yeah, it runs in the family.
Dime: Do you focus on adult diabetes or â€”
DG: We focus on adult II diabetes. We just want to bring awareness to it. African-Americans are more predisposed to it than other races. 12 million American women aged 20 or older are living with diabetes. So I think it’s more of a disease that’s out there, which people really aren’t aware of, and they need to know that eating healthy and changing your lifestyle can really lower your risk of acquiring the disease.
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On to the basketball:
Dime: There’s been a lot of discussion about your role with the team after Lance Stephenson played so well in your absence. Do you think you’re better in a starter’s role, or can you contribute off the bench as well?
DG: That’s the last thing on my mind. My only focus right now is pretty much getting back on the court. I can worry about the rest later.
Dime: Are you restricted at all in the stuff you can do, or are you full-on right now?
DG: I’m still in the middle of my rehab. I’m in a six month rehab; I won’t be six months out until October 5th…so I’m progressing to playing â€” I’m playing now, but I’m progressing on schedule and I’m still in the midst of my rehab.
Dime: How do you get the reps in, or get ready for training camp if you can’t go all out?
DG: Well you go out, you’re playing all out and you’re going all out, it’s just a matter of â€” you only can do what your body allows you to do at that time. That’s basically what your injury prevents you from doing. We have doctors and trainers that know the loads you’re able to handle so you’re playing up to that load. So it’s a progression: you start low and then you try and go higher and higher.
Dime: So you’re playing all out, but you’re not where you want to be when you’re playing?
DG: Playing is a part of the rehab, so no, you wouldn’t be 100 percent. Even someone, let’s say Derrick Rose who had an ACL, he can play all out, but that doesn’t mean he’s playing at 100 percent.
Dime: So you’re not at risk for re-injuring it or exacerbating the injury by playing at all?
DG: No, you’re not at risk for that.
Dime: There’s been a lot of talk about the Knicks-Nets rivalry, at least here in New York, where we’re based. Does that piss you off at all, especially because of all the excellent offseason moves, or do you like flying under the radar?
DG: I wouldn’t say it upset us. Indiana, we’re a small market team, we’re not in New York, we’re not in Brooklyn, we’re not in Boston. We’re a family oriented city, and we fly under the radar. We even use the blue collar tag sometimes to show how what we do goes unnoticed a lot. I don’t think it really upsets us, we just put our hardhats on and go to work. Whatever happens, happens.
Dime: Have you reached out to Luis Scola or any of the new hires this offseason?
DG: I’ve only had a chance to talk to Luis briefly, I think he’s playing for the national team [Argentina] right now, so he hasn’t been in town much. But for the most part, the new guys C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland, they’ve been here. And most of the guys from last year have been here for most of the summer.
Dime: So you guys have been working out together in Indiana?
DG: For the past three weeks we have. Before that everyone was at their own homes or offseason homes, but for the most part â€” the last three or four weeks â€” we’ve been together.
Dime: We had noticed â€” and we’ve written a couple pieces on it, just from the photos on Instagram, that Roy has gotten really, really big; he seems to be hitting the weights really hard. Is that something you noticed when you guys got together?
DG: I thought Roy was always pretty big [laughs]. Roy is a big guy. Yeah, I think he’s probably gotten a lot stronger. He always works really hard. He takes pride in getting the most out of his body. He posted me up the other day, and I thought a house was on me. So yeah, he’s a big strong guy.
Dime: Is there a specific team you guys are looking out for? You were one game away last year, and you weren’t even able to play. Is there a specific team you’re strategizing for next season?
DG: It’s really too early to say. Obviously, any team with LeBron James is going to be a contender. For the most part, the other teams, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself and say who you’re going to have to be faced up against in the playoff seeds. You’re really just focused on your own team. I mean, obviously, Miami’s always in the back of our minds because we lost to them two years in a row in the playoffs. Obviously since they’re always in there [in the playoffs], but other than that we just focus on ourselves.
Dime: Is there any specific component of your game you’ve you been working on this season? Maybe something new?
DG: It’s baby steps for me right now. I gotta be playing first before I’m trying other stuff.
Dime: Are you still getting shots up and stuff? Is your shot still fluid after all the time off?
DG: Once a shooter, always a shooter. Brian Shaw told me that. I’ll always do that, but it’s just a matter of getting healthy.
Dime: Do you think that October 5th date is within reach, and you’ll be able to play in the preseason to get back into the flow?
DG: Yeah. I anticipate playing in the preseason. I definitely do.
Dime: Have you guys talked to Frank [Vogel] or has he addressed the team about specific things to work on as a group this fall? You’ve already been together for a couple weeks as you said, so has he discussed anything â€” maybe defensively â€” for you guys to work on as a group?
DG: Yeah. When we play, it’s structured pick-up games, and Frank gives his input as to what he wants to see. Our coaches are very hands-on when we’re playing. There are guys [trainers, coaches] there every single day.
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