INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers will start the season without star forward Danny Granger, who has been sidelined indefinitely with a sore left knee.
The team said Tuesday that their top scorer and former All-Star is seeking a second opinion from a doctor as he continues to recover from a knee injury during last spring’s Eastern Conference semifinals. It’s a tough blow for the Pacers, who had high hopes heading into Wednesday night’s season opener in Toronto.
For the first time since the early 2000s, fans thought they may have an NBA title contender as all five starters from last season’s playoff run returned.
Now Indiana must contend with the loss of Granger, a small forward who averaged team-best 18.7 points per game last season, and the possibility that starting point guard George Hill might not be 100 percent. Hill did not play in any preseason games because of a left thumb injury and a right hip-pointer.
Coach Frank Vogel told The Indianapolis Star on Monday that Hill is expected to start against the Raptors and that he would like to play Hill about 30 minutes per game.
“You’re never going to feel like yourself the first day back, but I feel a lot better being out there than sitting down,” Hill told the newspaper.
Hill is expected to fill a vital role this season after returning to his hometown last year, averaging 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists. He played well enough that the Pacers traded Darren Collison to Dallas during the offseason.
Losing Granger is more disconcerting.
He has averaged 18.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in seven NBA seasons, and though he played through the injury in May, it flared up again while he was doing offseason workouts. In September, Granger underwent blood-platelet treatment.
“It hurts,” Granger said then as he described the procedure. “They take the blood out and inject it back in, so it hurts. But it helps you heal tremendously.”
Vogel has been cautious with both players throughout training camp and the preseason.
They were often limited in practice and until Granger made his preseason debut last week against Cleveland, neither had played during the preseason. And while Hill is back, nobody can say yet when Granger might be able to play.