"I've talked to Danny, talked to his agent; I'm not looking to trade him," team President Larry Bird said Saturday. "But you never know. If the right thing came along that would help the franchise, I would have to look at it, but I'm not out there looking at deals."
"It's really important for me to remain a Pacer," Granger said Saturday. "I feel like I've been a big part of the building, gone through a lot of the bad years and now the good. I'd love to stay, but I understand the business of basketball and I understand that I might be a trade commodity."
Granger missed all but five games last season with a left knee injury that required surgery. Missing a season changes a lot of things. The Pacers small forward sat and watched for nine long months as his team found a way to succeed without him.
His return to action this season was complicated by a strained calf—his first game back didn’t occur until Friday, against the Houston Rockets. He scored five points in 22 minutes, making just one of seven shot attempts.
The issue goes beyond immediate playing time or performance. Granger is in the last year of a contract that pays him $14 million a season. There it is—the expiring contract scenario trade chip, one of the staples of the NBA trading period, which hits its annual deadline on February 20.
The Pacers can trade Granger or keep him and hope he regains the form that once made him their centerpiece. They can let his contract expire and watch him leave at season’s end through free agency. Or they can try to keep him through a lesser deal. They won’t, however, be paying him the big bucks again. Whether anyone else will is anybody’s guess at this point.
In the same Indy Star article, Kravitz suggests waiting it out:
The best call is to keep him. Hope he returns to something close to his All-Star form and turns into one of the most dynamic bench scorers in the league. As good as this team is now, 21-5 heading into Sunday's home game against Boston, imagine the Pacers with Granger off the bench instead of, say, Orlando Johnson or Rasual Butler.
There’s two months left in which to decide. Two months in which Bird and coach Frank Vogel can see how Granger works himself back into the rotation. Two months for Granger himself to find his stride again and prove that he deserves to stay, for the playoffs and beyond.
There are plenty of people worried about how Danny Granger's return will affect Indiana. None of them are Pacers.— Tim Donahue (@TimDonahue8p9s) December 21, 2013
But what happens when teams come calling before then? The Pacers aren’t looking to pay the luxury tax net season. And they may not have the luxury of letting Granger walk away without getting anything back in return. The clock’s ticking on what could be Granger’s last stand in Indiana.