INDIANAPOLIS — Danny Granger tried to brush aside any new concerns about his injured left calf Monday.
Pacers fans can only hope he’s right.
Hours after the Pacers announced Granger would miss three weeks with a muscle strain, he walked out of practice with a smile and insisted this injury is nothing like the one that kept him out of action most of last season.
“It’s not terrible,” he said. “I can run up and down the court, but when I start jumping, it feels like a knot in my calf where I hurt it. They [the doctors] just said to sit out until I didn’t feel it.”
Granger missed all but five games with a tendon injury in his left knee, and there were big questions about his health throughout the Pacers’ busy offseason.
Indiana signed three free agents, hired two new assistant coaches, brought Larry Bird back to the front office and traded for Luis Scola. The Pacers are hoping the moves pay off after they pushed Miami to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals.
Those within the organization have always believed the biggest addition would be the return of Granger. If healthy, the 6-foot-9 former All-Star adds depth and scoring to an already dangerously strong roster.
But Monday’s announcement, which came the day before Indiana’s season opener against Orlando, is only creating more concerns.
Those outside the team’s inner circle see comparisons between this announcement and what happened last season when Granger was told to rest his injured left knee. Granger didn’t play until February and returned to the bench after only five games. In April, he finally opted for season-ending surgery.
When training camp opened last month, Granger was cleared to work, though he was given extra time to rest as he finished his rehabilitation from surgery.
Now, he’s dealing with a strained muscle in his lower left leg that forced him to miss the final week of the preseason and could push return back into mid to late November.
Granger insists there’s nothing to worry about.
“They’re holding me back because they want it to heal,” Granger said, referring to the doctors. “They said if I had not missed the whole year, they probably would have sat me down a week and a half.”
The biggest difference between the injuries, Granger noted, is that last year he was dealing with a joint injury that severely inhibited his play. This time, he’s simply trying let a muscle heal, an injury he’s played through in the past.
So why sit him now? The Pacers say it’s a “precautionary measure.” He’s expected to miss, at most, seven to eight games in a season in which Indiana hopes to play close to 100.
“It’s a long process for him, coming back, and we knew there would be some speed bumps along the way,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “It delays [the rotation work] a little bit, but when he gets back to feeling healthy again, we’ll ramp it up.”
With Granger out, shooting guard Lance Stephenson will retain the starting job he won last season. Indiana’s other four starters are all back, too.
Vogel has said all along he intended to give Granger and Stephenson starters’ minutes, and on Monday, Vogel noted Stephenson will get some time with the second unit against the Magic.
All that could change when Granger returns.
He led the Pacers in scoring for five straight seasons before the injury, and his size and shooting prowess will create even more mismatches for a team many believe is the best positioned to dethrone the three-time defending conference champion Heat.
And Granger is convinced he’ll be around to help.
“It could be a week. I just want to give myself some time,” he said. “I’ve had other players tell me when you come back not only do you have to get your injury healthy but you’ve got to get your body adjusted, too.”