Why Danny Granger Will Be NBA’s Next Great Reclamation Project

Danny Granger shouldn’t look this comfortable. Not this quickly.

After 544 regular-season appearances with the Indiana Pacers, the 30-year-old is just 10 games into his tenure with the Los Angeles Clippers. And somehow, he already looks like part of the family.

An acclimation period wasn’t just expected, it seemed like a best-case scenario.

Plagued by nagging knee pain, the former All-Star had gone from being the face of the Pacers to a part-time player (21.4 minutes since the start of last season) and even more infrequent contributor (7.9 points on 34.9 percent shooting over that stretch). A midseason swap sent him to the Philadelphia 76ers, and his subsequent buyout moved him out the waiver wire.

The Clippers took out a free-agent flier on him, knowing even that could prove too costly an investment. On one hand, they were buying low on a player not two full seasons removed from an 18.7-points-per-game scoring average. On the other, they were paying for damaged goods with no guarantee things would get any better.

But things have gotten better. The Clippers have already seen a return on their bargain-bin investment.

Granger has been a difference-making reserve almost from the moment he slipped on his new NBA threads. After a scoreless, forgettable four-minute debut, he reeled off an efficient 10 points (on 50 percent shooting) in 18 minutes his next time out against his new intracity rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers did what he could to keep optimistic fans from reading too much into the numbers.

You could tell, even though he played really well in the second half, it’s going to be a rhythm thing,” Rivers said, via FOX Sports’ Michael Martinez. “It’s going to take a while. … I don’t think you take two years off, then play sparingly and then just walk in our league and play well.”

It was preemptive protection, a savvy move that looked all the wiser when Granger managed seven points on seven field-goal attempts.

Yet, that patience talk started losing steam as Granger made it clear he needed none of it. He poured in 14 points on 45 percent shooting in his next game, then turned back the clock with an efficient, productive 18-point, six-rebound performance:

Even Rivers had a hard time hiding his excitement.

He’s just coming. He’s getting better and better,” the coach said after Granger’s 14-point effort, via Eric Patten of Clippers.com. “You can see his feet are starting to move a little bit. He can shoot the ball, so that’s really helped. He can put the ball on the floor a little bit.”

He can play like the Granger of old—not the old, worn-down Granger.

The only thing containing his stat sheet right now is his playing time.

He’s cleared 20 minutes only three times, and never topped 25, through his first 10 games in L.A. With one eye fixated on the postseason, the Clippers don’t want to push him too hard, too quickly. Granger has also battled foul trouble (3.9 per 36 minutes), the most obvious sign of the rust that remains.

Whenever that leash is loosened, he seems like he’ll be ready for the expanded workload. His per-36-minute marks (20.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists) aren’t that far off from his per-game averages during his All-Star season of 2008-09 (25.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists).

He might not look exactly like he did in his prime, but he looks a lot closer to that player than the one who struggled just to see the floor over the past season-plus:

But don’t take my word for it.

Not when there’s video evidence to validate that claim.

The Clippers didn’t just give Granger a roster spot, they offered him a chance to get his career back on track.

For as much as the basketball gods have frustrated with injuries this season, they seem to have a soft spot for these redemption stories.

Rudy Gay was an inefficient wreck when he left the Toronto Raptors. Now, his 20.5 player efficiency rating in 46 games with the Sacramento Kings checks out higher than All-Stars John Wall (20.1) and Joakim Noah (20.2).

Monta Ellis has all but cleansed himself of the damage done during his one-plus season stay with the Milwaukee Bucks. His field-goal percentage has climbed four points from last season (45.6, up from 41.6), his three-point mark has seen almost the same increase (32.2, up from 28.7) and he’s emerged as a sensational sidekick for Dirk Nowitzki on a dangerous Dallas Mavericks team.

DeAndre Jordan went from Vinny Del Negro’s doghouse to holding top-five rankings in rebounds (13.7 per game, first) and blocks (2.4, third). Jodie Meeks traded empty stats (8.0 points on 40.4 percent shooting his first four seasons) for efficiency (15.3, 45.4). Miles Plumlee went from forgotten (0.9 points in 3.9 minutes per game as a rookie last season) to featured (8.3 points, 25.1 minutes).

Granger’s fall was longer and harder than any of these players. He fell from a higher post and had more physical obstacles to clear on his road to redemption.

But he knows where he’s been, where he wants to go and what he needs to do to get there.

“It’s nice that he came from a serious organization and a serious team,” Rivers said, via SB Nation’s Mike Jaglin. “I know that sounds crazy, but I think that’s good because he came in serious.”

That’s why Granger has found comfort that shouldn’t be available to him and why it’s easy to believe in the lasting power of this reclamation project after only 10 games.

The Clippers rolled the dice on him as a potential contributor, and he gambled on them as full-fledged championship contenders.

Both are counting their riches now. Both are rewriting their basketball stories, with a possible ending in sight sweeter than anything they’ve ever experienced.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Danny Ainge continues to downplay upcoming draft, what’s his plan?

I don’t know if Danny Ainge is playing a game of poker with the other GM’s across the NBA. Ainge seems to always have an angle, and his love of the upcoming draft is in the friend zone. He’s not overly warm about the upcoming draft, and honestly I don’t want the Celtics to bank on drafting players as the only way to improve. Ainge has a star on his team that he needs to maximize while he’s in his prime. Rondo isn’t getting any younger, so this summer is the best time to build towards the bigger picture. It’s unclear this early if Ainge has any specific star in mind that he plans to go after this summer. We know some rumors, like Kevin Love’s name being out there. We do know that Ainge built the Celtics roster to capitalize on the opportunities that he worked so hard for this past summer. Ainge has continued to call this draft over hyped, and as I said, is he gambling with other GM’s? With his act of disregard for the draft keep his phone ringing o…

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Is Danny Ainge Ready to Bring Superstars Back to the Boston Celtics?

It’s rarely a bad time to acquire a superstar. Other variables might loosen a team’s need, but timing should never be one of them. If a star is available, and the means exist to grab him, a team should draft, sign or make a trade and then ask questions later.

The Boston Celtics already have one star, but the rest of their roster is mostly murk. A few young pieces have unknown potential (Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk), and there are veterans, like Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Gerald Wallace, who range from “fairly paid” to “that contract is a raging forest fire!”

Right now, Boston is 22-43, which is the fourth-worst record in the NBA. The Celtics have numerous holes that need to be filled. A center/long-armed rim protector, secondary ball-handler, more outside shooting and a wing defender or two would go a long way.

But a franchise-altering star is the end game, and general manager Danny Ainge will surely explore the availability of a few before addressing any direct needs that could be solved with a less expensive veteran, role player or young prospect.

How do we know this? The team’s owner Wyc Grousbeck recently said so to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:

I’ve got confidence that with all these picks and these young guys and our willingness to spend money that we can get there. We’re a patient group. We will take a multiyear plan if that’s what it takes. But I think this June there could be some fireworks. I think this June we’ve got so many pieces to this puzzle that we might be able to shake loose a real piece or two for this team going forward. So, I’m hoping it’s sooner rather than later.

So there you have it: The Celtics wouldn’t mind contending for a title sooner than later (breaking news!), but what “pieces” are Grousbeck referring to?

 

The Expected Candidates

The variables involved in Carmelo Anthony’s future make it difficult to place the Celtics as a potential landing spot, but thanks to the amount of assets they have to sell (and New York’s dire need for those very assets), Boston remains a dark-horse candidate.

On the court, Rajon Rondo would thrive beside Anthony in the same way he worked with Paul Pierce—except a 28-year-old Rondo will be better than his 25-year-old self, and a 30-year-old Anthony is better than a 31-year-old Pierce.

Their pick-and-roll would be unstoppable, and Rondo’s passing would unleash the catch-and-shoot monster that broils in Anthony’s belly.

The team would need to clear a whole bunch of cap space in order for an outright signing this summer, but if Anthony really wants to wear a green jersey, a sign-and-trade could work.

Kevin Love is the sexiest name out there for a variety of reasons, with the No. 1 being he’s the best player who is most likely to be on a different team two years from now.

He is a transcendental rebounding sensation who can step outside and murder you with the three ball (38 percent on 6.5 attempts per game this season).

Right now he holds the league’s third-highest player efficiency rating (behind James and Durant), per ESPN.com, and the third-highest defensive rebound rate. Love can pass, draw fouls and set screens. Defense is problematic but solvable if he’s working beside a demonic rim protector like Omer Asik or Roy Hibbert.

The Celtics do not have that rim protector, but if Love can be had, they’ll worry about filling other holes later on. The three-time All-Star is only 25 years old and would instantly make Boston a top-five team in the East.

  

Slim Chance…but Anything Is Possible

At what point will a struggling, capped-out team with few future assets look to cash out on its best player?

Maybe when that player is near the end of his contract? Maybe when the team believes the player and his financial being hold less value than a few draft picks and skilled guys in their early 20s who are making relative peanuts?

The players who qualify here are Brook Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki (just kidding!).

None of these guys will be actively shopped, but their respective franchises should at least project where they’ll be three years from now if they keep them as opposed to cashing out at the ripest hour.

Maybe it’s a pessimistic way to think about things, but that doesn’t make it any less intelligent. The offer would have to be sizable, and Boston has the ingredients to cook something up.

Not that the Celtics would follow this path, or even agree with it, but should the Brooklyn Nets, Portland Trail Blazers or Memphis Grizzlies trot out of the gate next year with a string of losses, the Celtics could dangle their 2014 lottery pick(s)—a prospect or two who may be more appealing as actual human contributors than valuable, abstract symbols of the future—to catch that elusive franchise big man.

Why wouldn’t they do it? All three will re-enter free agency next summer (Lopez needs to opt out of his player option for 2016, but it’s probable he will), and injury concerns are real. Lopez has battled chronic problems with his feet, and Gasol seriously hurt his knee this season.  

Hypothetically, Ainge might instead set his sights on smaller fish, like Harrison Barnes or Terrence Ross. Or maybe he’ll just plug holes with talented short-term stopgaps, bring up the team’s competitive level and let those future draft picks burn a hole in his pocket.

Those additions won’t be stars, but the only stress related to time that Ainge should feel is in regard to Rondo’s prime, and whether the GM can find another superstar before his current franchise player’s production starts to drop. 

Josh Smith and Rudy Gay will probably have their names associated with Boston this summer. They’re fine players who played with Rondo in high school and can do freakishly great things on a basketball court. But financially, acquiring either one doesn’t make much sense for a rebuilding team like the Celtics. Their contracts and age don’t hold value, and “value” is the second-most important thing Ainge wants right now. 

Gordon Hayward and Greg Monroe are two younger targets who don’t yet qualify as “star” material, but both will lose their market value this summer when they enter restricted free agency, and forfeiting hard-earned assets for either would be risky.

The most important thing is obtaining another superstar, and from Boston’s end, the window to grab one is propped wide open until it does.

 

Michael Pina covers the NBA for Bleacher Report, CelticsHub and Red94 (ESPN’s TrueHoop Network), Sports On Earth and The Classical. His writing can be found here. Follow him @MichaelVPina 

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Blake Griffin throws down thunderous put-back dunk off a Danny Granger miss

The LA Clippers-Golden State Warriors game on Wednesday night produced its fair share of highlight reel plays. During the fourth quarter of the game, however, Blake Griffin, had the play of the night when he came flying in on a Danny Granger missed three-pointer to throw down this jam with authority. Griffin finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds in the Clippers 13-point victory over the GSW.
[NBA.SI]
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Checklist for Danny Ainge to Rebuild the Boston Celtics in 2014 Offseason

Successful NBA rebuilds require luck, timing, shrewd decisions and patience. They’re done with a long-term plan in mind, gradual motion toward a championship.

In order to be competitive in a league that has 29 other organizations with their eyes on the same prize, getting to the top is obviously very difficult, but the Boston Celtics are on the right track.

Much of the process is outside any single person’s control. Countless variables can set everything on fire at any time. The idea is to be as prepared as possible for whatever the future holds. The Celtics are.

They have 10 first-round draft picks over the next five years, a franchise star at point guard, several bushy-tailed prospects providing low-cost value and a cap sheet that’ll be flexible by the summer of 2015. Still, much work needs to be done, and once this season ends Danny Ainge will have a few important items on his plate that need attention.

Here’s his checklist for the summer, with each action ranked in order of importance. 

Begin Slideshow

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Doc Rivers shows patience with Danny Granger

Danny Granger finally got to see some meaningful minutes Thursday night with the Clippers.
Granger’s first two games with the team were essentially dress rehearsals for the nearly 18 minutes he played in a 48-point rout of the Lakers at Staples Center.
But after producing 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and adding two rebounds, Granger showed he can be an effective producer once he gets up to speed with his new team.
‘You could tell, even though he played really well in the second half, it’s going to be a rhythm thing,’ Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. ‘It’s going to take a while. I’m going to be very patient with Danny. I just think it’s going to take a while for him to really get going, but you could see some of the things he can do for us.’
The Clippers signed Granger last week after he was bought out of his contract by the Philadelphia 76ers, who had acquired the 6-foot-9 small forward on Feb. 21 from the Indiana Pacers. Granger, 30, was a one-time All-Star with the Pacers,

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Danny Ainge: We told Rajon Rondo there may be consequences for staying behind

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said point guard Rajon Rondo told him and coach Brad Stevens that he would stay in Los Angeles an extra day to celebrate his his 28th birthday while his teammates traveled to Sacramento. Ainge didn’t agree with Rondo’s decision. “He let Brad know and he let me know that he was going to stay in L.A. an extra day,” Ainge said in his weekly interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub, via ESPNBoston.com. “We didn’t think that he should, but [told him] ‘It’s your choice and there may be consequences if you stay.’ It’s that simple.” Rondo was not scheduled to play on the second night of a back-to-back as part of his recovery from ACL surgery. “In the end, him and I had a long talk about it. This was all happening over the phone,” Ainge said. “He had planned it before and he had reason believe that it would be OK. I understand his reason to believe based on where he’s been and what he’s grown up with and what he’s seen and witn

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Danny Ainge now says Rajon Rondo was asked not to stay in L.A. to celebrate birthday

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said on his weekly radio appearance on Wednesday that he and head coach Brad Stevens did in fact tell Rajon Rondo not to stay behind in Los Angeles to celebrate his birthday instead of traveling with the team on its West Coast road trip. With the Celtics […]The post Danny Ainge now says Rajon Rondo was asked not to stay in L.A. to celebrate birthday appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Danny Granger’s Clippers debut put on hold

LOS ANGELES — Danny Granger’s debut with the Clippers will have to wait.
Granger’s name was on the official team roster for Saturday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center, but the number in front of his name was not circled, which the NBA requires.
The list of active players, which is submitted to the official scorer before each game, included Granger’s name, but a team’s head coach must circle the number in front of the names of all active players.
The list was signed by Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who must have failed to see that Granger was not included among active players. Before the game, Rivers said he wasn’t sure if Granger would see minutes.
Granger’s first game in a Clippers uniform will probably come on the road next Tuesday at Phoenix.

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Danny Granger signs with Los Angeles Clippers

Danny Granger signs with Los Angeles Clippers after clearing waivers from Philadelphia

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