Miami and Chicago seem to clearly be the cream of the crop in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Beyond that, it seems that Orlando and New York — with their soap operas over the past days and weeks — have received most of the publicity. If there’s a sleeper in the mix, might it be the Indiana Pacers even though they entered today as the No. 3 seed in the playoff race?
The Pacers lost five of seven games during one stretch in the middle of March, but have lost just three times in 11 games since then and have won three in a row heading into tonight’s date with Oklahoma City. Indiana has been spurred on by a trade that brought them Leandro Barbosa and Danny Granger is elevating his game at just the right time.
Danny Granger joined 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis with Grady and Big Joe to discuss what has led to the Pacers’ recent surge, if he feels like there are still bigger and better things to come for himself, being a guy who rises to the moment, the team’s increase in confidence and how the trade for Leandro Barbosa affected the team.
You guys lost at New Jersey late in March but are 4-1 since and have been hitting on all cylinders. What led to that?:
“I think I actually probably got that going a little bit before the New Jersey game. That was just a bad game for all of us. I couldn’t even stay on the court; I fouled out. But for the most part I’ve just been more comfortable in the offense, more comfortable with my shot. They’ve been calling plays to get me looks and it’s been working for us.”
Do you have a sense of what might lie ahead for you in your career? There’s still plenty left out there for you, right?:
“There’s definitely something else out there especially for a guy that plays the way that I play. I have a lot of years left. I’m always going to shoot the ball, so there’s definitely a lot left. I’ve had a lot of years but this is the first year I’ve played on a team that’s really a contender. I definitely think I have a lot left in my future.”
Do you feel like you’re a guy that rises to the moment, now that we’ve hit the home stretch of the season?:
“Yeah, I mean, you see that light at the end of the tunnel. That light is not only the fact that we’re just trying to make the playoffs, but we’re fighting for a top seed, we’re fighting to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. We’re fighting for a lot of things right now. When I see that, it really gives you a different sense, at least it does for me, as to what’s at stake in each game that we play in. Each game is just that much more important to me.”
How has the confidence level grown for this group in the last couple weeks?:
“It has. I think our confidence has steadily increased. I think our coaching staff has done a good job of keeping us positive and making sure that we realize how good of a team that we can be and what’s in the future for us. They’ve kept that in our mind all year. With that, we’ve surprised a lot of people but I don’t really know if we’ve surprised ourselves as much because we’ve been striving to do this from the beginning.”
What has changed with this team since trading for Leandro Barbosa near the deadline?:
“I think two things happened. We kind of hit our stride. We’re getting more comfortable with ourselves offensively. Secondly, Leandro Barbosa, he came in and really just hit the floor running. A lot of times it takes time to incorporate a guy into the system. Honestly, we don’t even really have practice time to do that. So he really just came in and his veteran experience really has helped us.”