The Indiana Pacers just can't seem to catch a break this season. According to a report from NBA.com, star small forward Danny Granger has received an injection in his balky knee and is expected to be out for three months:
The Indiana Pacers announced that Danny Granger received an injection Tuesday to treat left patellar tendinosis. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Gulf Breeze, Fla.
Team medical personnel are looking at a recovery time of approximately three months. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.
This puts the 2-2 Pacers in a pickle. After finishing as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, the young, upstart Pacers will have a much more difficult time reaching the playoffs.
Granger averaged 18.7 points and five rebounds per game last year, and he also shot 38 percent from three-point range. He is the Pacers' unquestioned leader, and losing him for this extended period of time could be enough to keep the team out of the playoffs. Keep in mind, in 2011, the Pacers just barely made the playoffs as a No. 8 seed.
That said, what does this mean for the Pacers' hopes this year? They are a talented team and their surge in the standings last season proves that.
Simply put, what has to happen in Indiana is the same that happens when any other team loses a star player; the other guys need to step up in his absence.
Be it Paul George working more on his scoring or Roy Hibbert becoming the 20-10 center he has the potential to be, someone needs to step up. Hibbert is only averaging 8.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game thus far, so a good plan would be for him to demand the ball more and use his 7'2", 280-pound frame to create major mismatches in the paint.
Even David West could emerge as the Pacers' go-to guy in Granger's absence. In his years with the New Orleans Hornets, he averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 49 percent from the field, and he has put up similar numbers this season with his teammate injured.
Considering that West's jumper is more consistent than George's, head coach Frank Vogel should immediately make West the focus of the Pacers' offense. He has proved to be a consistent scorer before, so there's no reason to not at least give him a chance.
Either way, one thing is certain. With Granger out for the next three months, the Pacers' return to the postseason is anything but guaranteed. Unless one or more players step up during his recovery, the team is doomed to return to mediocrity.