INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Danny Granger, the leading scorer for Indiana the past five years, could play for the first time this season Wednesday night against Charlotte.
After watching the former All-Star go through a second full practice Tuesday, coach Frank Vogel told reporters that Granger looked a "little rusty" and that the Pacers were eager to finally get him back on the court.
"My message to Danny is that we don't want you to come back unless you feel you're ready to come back," Vogel said. "So if he's not there yet, we don't want to push it. We'll wait."
The Pacers (31-21) have been waiting more than three months for Granger to recover from patellar tendinosis in his left knee. After the initial diagnosis in early November, Indiana struggled to get its offense in sync and win games.
Then they adapted.
Vogel modified the offense, which led to a breakout first half from forward Paul George, who was selected to his first All-Star Game. David West pitched in by becoming a major offensive threat inside, and the Pacers went 27-14 over their next 41 games to take the Central Division lead.
All the while, Granger kept urging George to take his game to the next level, and now, they're finally on the verge of playing together.
"They've been great teammates and have great respect for each other," Vogel said. "As soon as I put Danny on the blue team today, Paul's face lit up."
George made it clear Tuesday that he plans on continuing to take an aggressive approach on offense, though he's eager to get Granger involved, too, even joking that he'd like his assist numbers to increase.
"He looks good, he looks like he didn't miss a beat," George said. "He's got the same burst, the same explosiveness. I think when he comes back, it will almost be like he's not been out."
Still, the Pacers aren't expecting much out of Granger right away.
Despite putting Granger with the starting unit Tuesday, Vogel made it clear Monday night that it's likely Granger will come off the bench initially until he gets back into rhythm and regains his stamina.
On Tuesday, Vogel warned the Granger fans they see initially might not be the same player they've grown accustomed to scoring over a 40-minute period. But Vogel expects Granger to get back to his old ways soon and the journey back could begin as soon as Wednesday.
"We're going to see how everything responded to today's practice, which was probably the most he's done," Vogel said. "We'll see how he responds in the morning and we'll go from there."
Note: West stayed home from Tuesday's practice after getting poked in the eye early in Monday night's game. He did not return until the second half and struggled when he did come back. Vogel said West also had trouble sleeping but that he expects West to be ready to play Wednesday.