Indiana Pacers Media Day 2013: Photos, Interviews and Takeaways
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Your Indiana Pacers have made their thoughts known on Media Day 2013.
An Indiana team that was on the verge of an NBA Finals appearance in 2012-13 has been made even better, making it primed to contend for its first Larry O'Brien Trophy in the upcoming season.
What makes this impending title run more intriguing is the return of 2009 NBA Most Improved Player Danny Granger. Will he be able to regain his old, deadly form after missing 77 games last season and eventually help the Pacers reach the promised land?
If Granger does start, how will this affect Lance Stephenson's play off the bench? Will Indiana's new shock troopers, which include Chris Copeland, Luis Scola and C.J. Watson, be up to the task in the Pacers' quest for their first NBA title?
The team provided intriguing answers on what was an entertaining and informative Media Day session.
The Return of Danny Granger
The Indiana Pacers Media Day 2013 spotlight was on returning Danny Granger. He missed all but five games last season due to a jumper's knee injury.
On Friday, when asked if he would be all right with the idea of coming off the bench, he was hesitant, but did emphasize the bottom line is winning.
He said,"I mean...my role...as far as what I would do...I just want to win, honestly."
Granger also said observing his new teammate, forward Luis Scola, in a pickup game several days ago is indicative of what lies ahead for Indiana.
It's mind-blowing when I think about it. We were playing pickup a couple of days ago, and Luis Scola was making moves and hitting hook shots, and shooting jump shots, and that's our backup power forward. It's really amazing the team they have assembled.
Granger: "Our team is so well-balanced, I don’t think scoring will be our problem."— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) September 27, 2013
Pacers fans should be encouraged with the news that Granger is nearing 100 percent in terms of his health.
If I come back healthy, the sky's the limit. We're definitely taking the championship, 100 percent.
Head coach Frank Vogel also proudly declared Granger as the team's hardest worker this offseason, so he should be back in full harness sooner than later.
For his part, Stephenson showed on Media Day how consummate a professional he is by saying it won't really matter if he'll start or come off the bench. He also said he and Granger aren't competing to be a starter.
It's bigger than me and Danny. Our team is great. We've got a lot of players here that can help us win a championship. Whatever it takes. I'm happy if I am starting or coming off the bench.
Paul George: Indiana's New Franchise Player
Fifty press members attended this year's Media Day. This represents twice the number from 2012—a testament to Indiana's rise in popularity on and off the court.
One Pacer who's making headlines nowadays is Paul George, thanks to a 2012-13 campaign that saw him nabbing NBA Most Improved, NBA All-Defensive Second Team and All-NBA Third Team honors.
By signing a five-year maximum deal on September 25, which guarantees a paycheck in the $80-$90 million range, he is now Indiana's franchise player.
George, who sported a new hairdo, started his press conference by saying,"Our focus is to just make sure we start this year off right."
He got to the heart of the matter and downplayed any pressure on himself regarding the new contract extension.
I'm gonna continue to go out there and do my job. I don't even want to put that pressure on me as far as playing up or living up to a contract. I'm gonna continue to keep doing what got me the contract.
In David West's press conference, he reveals he received a text message in July from a coach whom he did not identify. The coach, who was working out with George in Las Vegas for the Team USA minicamp, was raving about George's potential to become NBA MVP.
The text message reads, "Paul is a top-five talent in the league. He can be MVP."
Indiana was just one game away from the NBA Finals last season.
With Granger's return, George's rise to stardom, West's re-signing, Roy Hibbert's dominance at center and a revamped bench, anything less than a championship will be a disappointment.
To give fans an idea of how serious the Pacers are, they turned down an offer from NBA TV to be featured in "The Association," a documentary which features a behind-the-scenes glimpse of an NBA team.
Now, that is a sign of intense focus.
Some Pacers wanted to grab the opportunity while some didn't. In the end, the decision came down to team president Larry Bird, who said the last thing the team needs is a potential distraction.
I can take the heat. I don't think this year we need many distractions. I think these players do well staying together and doing the right things. We do have some young kids, and I think it's a little early for all that.
Forward Chris Copeland, who, along with C.J. Watson and Luis Scola, is seen to bolster Indiana's once-inept bench, "isn't completely healthy" due to a left knee issue.
However, he should be ready to go for the 2013-14 season opener, per Pacers.com's Scott Agness.
Chris Copeland (knee) said he's not where he needs to be yet & certain movements are painful but he'll be "ready to rock" when season comes.— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) September 27, 2013
When asked by the media about Indy's title chances, Copeland said,"I think we got a chance to really do something special so I can't wait (to get started)."
In the end, it was head coach Frank Vogel who summed up the Pacers championship aspirations best when he stated,"This is a go-for-it time in Indiana Pacers history."
Indiana Pacers Media Day 2013: The Key Takeways
One key takeaway from Media Day 2013 is that the Pacers are not yet at full strength, considering the recoveries of Granger and Copeland from their respective knee injuries.
However, the injury bug should not be an issue because both of them are on track for full recoveries once the 2013-14 season kicks off on October 29 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the young Orlando Magic.
Even if they both suit up by then, the bigger question is if their play won't be hampered considerably.
Don't expect Granger and Copeland to start the season with all guns blazing. Based on what we learned on Media Day 2013, these are two guys who will do all they can to help the Pacers win at all costs.
Granger, injury or no injury, needs to step up big in his comeback year, the last in his contract. With Paul George's mega deal, he may still be re-signed in 2014-15, but for a lower price.
Otherwise, if he fails to deliver the goods, he could be dealt before the trade deadline.
Another takeaway is that there is no friction whatsoever among the Pacers, as evidenced by Stephenson's willingness to accept whatever role comes his way.
Stephenson, just like Granger, is in the last year of his contract. The professionalism he displayed during Media Day should be an indication that he is also primed to stick around for more years to come.
Simply put, from the front office to the players, everybody is all in for what is shaping up to be a memorable championship season for the Indiana Pacers.
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