Sad turn for Granger

column-rick olivaresTHE Detroit Pistons just waived forward Danny Granger after acquiring him in the off-season.

What a sad turnaround for Granger, who before the emergence of Paul George was the man in Indiana. The Pacers were hoping that both Granger and George would lead Indiana deep into the playoffs of the 2012-2013 season. But after battling persistent pain in his knee, Granger was shut down after playing only five games after the All-Star break.

It is a sad turn of events for the former University of Mexico Lobo, who aside from being the star in Indiana and making the National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star team in 2009, played on the US national team that won gold in the 2010 International Basketball Federation World Championship in Turkey. His star was rising and so was his team.

That is until an injury and a series of bad ones at that have derailed what was a promising career.

Right before the end of the trading deadline the 2013-2014 season, Granger, at that point the Pacers’ longest-tenured player having played nine years in Indianapolis, was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers in a three-team trade that saw Evan Turner take his place. Before the trade, Granger chafed at coming off the bench but not the crass manner that George displayed this past summer when he was moved from the three-spot to the four. He was still a gentleman. Yet Granger’s production declined not simply because of the loss of minutes, but because he simply wasn’t the same player after coming back from sick bay.

What made it worse for Indiana was that the Turner trade didn’t work out the way Pacers management envisioned. Turner got into a fistfight with then-teammate Lance Stephenson and didn’t show his lack of touches. Then-center Roy Hibbert went into a funk and the Pacers were never the same.

Now Turner is in Boston while Stephenson is with the Los Angeles Clippers. George, who took over as the star of the franchise, suffered a horrific knee injury while playing for the national team, and the past season was lost. Indiana finished with a 38-44 record and just missed the playoffs despite posting the same record as Brooklyn. The Nets won the season series and, thus, a shot at the NBA’s second season.

George recently returned just this summer and has looked great playing a stretch four for Indiana.

As for Granger, he went from Indiana to Los Angeles to Miami to Phoenix where he didn’t play at all before Detroit picked him up. When he didn’t suit up during the preseason, he was waived. And painfully, on the eve of the 2015-2016 season.

He will need a month of rehabilitation on a plantar fasciitis injury on his left foot before he works out again. But what team will take a chance on an injury-prone player?

It is sad because Granger was one of those good guys and was never a trouble maker. He mentored the young Pacers, and George in particular. He exhibited a toughness that former teammate Ron Artest demanded from him when he lost two front teeth during a scrum in Boston but returned to the game. He was an all-NBA talent on a bad team until the Pacers put together a solid line-up toward the end of Granger’s tenure there.

Somehow, in the middle of all of this, I can’t help but think of another Danny…Danny Manning. His is a similar story up to certain points. Manning won a national championship with Kansas, after which he was selected No. 1 overall by the Clippers. During his rookie year, Manning tore his ACL and was sidelined after 26 games. He did come back and post some terrific numbers, such as the 22.3 points he averaged in 1992-1993. Continuing knee problems sidelined him and he was later traded to Phoenix where he became a valuable reserve. After Phoenix, Manning bounced around—Milwaukee, Utah, Dallas, and like Danny Granger, Detroit. Unfortunately, this is where Manning’s career came to a close. 

Manning has since found life as a basketball coach. He was an assistant to Bill Self when Kansas won the NCAA title in 2008. He has since parlayed that into a head coaching job with the Wake Forest Deacons.

As for Granger, maybe there’s still some NBA life left in those aching knees and feet. I am not suggesting that he call it a career. After all, who am I to tell him how to live his life.

But he should know that he was good for the game and the game, unkind as it was in recent years, will turn around and make good on him again.

Now we have to wait for that happy ending.