Danny Granger on Struggles Since Return: 'There's a Big Mental Road Block'

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2014

Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger waits during a break in play against the Houston Rockets in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/R Brent Smith)
R Brent Smith/Associated Press

For as much as the Indiana Pacers changed over the last two seasons, Danny Granger's transformation has been equally dramatic.

Granger, once the face of this franchise, now sits as a complementary piece of the Pacers' puzzle. After losing all but five games last season to a knee injury and two months of the 2013-14 campaign to a calf problem, he's searching for a seat inside the same car he used to drive.

Some might see it as an unfortunate demotion, but the 30-year-old has taken it as a challenge. Really, he has no other choice. The stat sheet won't allow him to see himself as the player he was before the injuries.

Danny Granger's Rapid Decline

It's not just his production that's different. His body and, more importantly, his comfort with it have also changed. He told USA Today's Sam Amick:

The left knee, the one I had problems with, it's continually getting better. But right now, there's a big mental road block, honestly, because I hadn't pushed off the thing the way I wanted to in the last year and a half. So coming back from that — even though it is stronger and it is healed — I've got to get over some mental hurdles.

It's almost a broken record at this point, yet hardly a cliche. The mental aspect can be the most grueling portion of the rehab process.

Derrick Rose continually spoke of a confidence that apparently never returned during his failed attempt to return to the floor last season. Rajon Rondo said his mind, not his body, would determine when he could come back from the torn ACL that delayed the start of his 2013-14 season.

There's another layer to Granger's test, though. Not only is he trying to rediscover a comfort with his body, but he's also trying to settle into a new role on a different team than the one he left behind.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 24:  Paul George #24 of the Indiana Pacers accepts his KIA NBA Most Improved Player award from teammate Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers during the Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Indiana Pacers
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

It's been a while since anyone wondered if he could bump Lance Stephenson out of the starting lineup:

He's searching for his rhythm but doing it in the midst of a championship pursuit.

"How far am I below that (ceiling)? I don't know," he said, via Amick. "Because right now it's a matter of working my way back into where I've been without hurting my team."

Granger used to be the king of this castle; now, he's trying to navigate the new layout without stepping on any toes in the process. And he's making those rounds on a knee he still isn't sure will hold up.

There's a physical grind in what he's trying to do, but it's nowhere near as daunting as the medical hurdles he clearly hasn't cleared yet.