One-on-One With Pacers' Danny Granger
His neighborhood has changed dramatically.
Granger spoke with FanHouse Tuesday afternoon, proud of his new association with EAS (Energy-Athletics-Strength, a nutrition/supplement product), but even more proud of the NBA player he is becoming.
He won the league's Most Improved Player Award in 2009, when he averaged 25.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists for the Indiana Pacers. He has become a franchise foundation, thriving in Indiana while a major housecleaning commenced around him.
Here are parts of the conversation:
FH: Since you are the focal point of the Pacers now, what did you think of your first-round draft pick Tyler Hansbrough of UNC (taken 13th)?
DG: I watched him at North Carolina, and I've talked to him some since we drafted him. He's a confident guy. I think he'll be a great fit for us. He's one of those hard-nosed, battle-tested guys who's been through the NCAA Tournament a few times. He played four years at one of the top schools in the country. He's ready to help us now. He's probably more NBA ready than most of the other guys who were drafted.
You've won just 36 games in each of the last two seasons. Is there any reason to think this season will be better for the Pacers?
Looking at the team we had last season, it really was just all thrown together kind of last minute. We had two new point guards, two rookies. We lost our second leading scorer. We had so many new pieces trying to fit. So with a year together, we'll be better now. And in free agency, you never know what might happen. We could be a different team by the time the season starts.
What do you think of the job Larry Bird has done trying to rebuild this team?
I like what he's doing. The last two drafts have been good ones for us. He got Hansbrough this year. And the year before, we got Roy [Hibbert] and Brandon [Rush]. Those are good picks. We're going in the right direction.
Larry kind of cleaned house, tried to change the culture there, got rid of a lot of people. Was that necessary?
There was nothing wrong with the people we had, but things happen. There was an unfortunate incident, and regardless of whose fault it was, changes had to be made. It's the nature of the business. Not just in basketball, but in all of sports. It's the same thing if a player is not performing, he gets traded. It's part of the business.
Why did you hook up with EAS?
I realize that nutrition can play a big role in your success. EAS focuses on putting the right product in your body to get the best results. For an elite athlete, that's important.
Do guys in the league really pay attention to that kind of stuff?
In this league, some do, and some don't. Some guys are real sticklers about what they put into their bodies. Others don't care. There are guys who will be eating a burger and fries right before a game.
At what point did you really pay attention to nutrition?
When I was younger, I didn't pay much attention to it. When you're a kid, your metabolism is so high, you can eat almost anything. You can eat candy, then go out and play basketball because you're so wired all the time. The higher up in the game you go, the more important it is. This is my job now, and I take it very seriously."I play basketball with a little chip on my shoulder. I always have, regardless of whether it should be there or not. When the game stops, the chip comes off.
Why were you so underestimated coming into the league? A lot of guys who haven't done anything yet were taken in front of you.
I had knee surgery my senior year. I came back a little too soon because we were making an NCAA push. I never gave the knee time to rest, so when I went through the pre-draft process, all teams saw was that I had a swollen knee. I was still a good player, but I had a swollen knee, and it probably scared people away. As it turned out, it worked out fine for me. I play for a great organization now.
As the franchise star, do you know Larry Bird very well?
I work for him now, so yes, I've gotten to know him. Larry is laid back. He's from the country, a very simple guy but a very straight forward guy. He'll tell you like it is. He has a quirky sense of humor.
Have you been surprised by your success?
It used to surprise me, but as I've gotten better and better, I've set the bar higher for myself. If I don't do well, I'm disappointing my teammates, my organization, the fans. I don't expect anything less than playing at a high level.
What's your goal in this league?
My goal is to win an NBA title. That's the ultimate goal. Getting close doesn't count, either. You give it everything.''
You've been invited to train this summer with USA Basketball with a chance of being on the 2012 Olympic team. How important is that for you?
Winning a gold medal, that would be a great honor, the highest honor for any sport. Just getting invited to participate this summer is an honor.
What is about your game that people might now know?
I play basketball with a little chip on my shoulder. I always have, regardless of whether it should be there or not. When the game stops, the chip comes off. I kind of have two personalities, one on the court and another off it.
Anything else they don't know off the court?
I'm a pretty good singer, although different people may say different things about that. As part of a rookie hazing thing, I performed in front of the fans, and I didn't hear too many boos.''