In the NBA, when the going gets tough, sometimes it's bound to get even tougher.
The Indiana Pacers certainly know what I'm talking about.
Indiana was forced to begin the 2012-13 crusade without star forward Danny Granger, courtesy of the high-scoring wing's losing battle with a sore knee.
Though there was originally hope that the franchise cornerstone would be able hit the hardwood soon enough, the team announced that he would be sidelined indefinitely.
Forward @dgranger33 has continued soreness in his left knee and will be out indefinitely.— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 30, 2012
So yeah, the going got tough early on for Indiana.
And now it's about to get even tougher.
Per the franchise's official press release, the Pacers announced that Granger had received an injection in his left knee and will be sidelined for a few more months:
The Indiana Pacers announced that Danny Granger received an injection Tuesday to treat left patellar tendinosis. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Gulf Breeze, Fla.
Team medical personnel are looking at a recovery time of approximately three months. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.
This news comes as a shocking yet not-so-shocking blow to Indiana's cause.
Whenever the term "indefinitely" is thrown around, the worst is automatically assumed. However, not even the Pacers could have predicted this. Now they're left to carry on for more than half of the season down their most discernible and potent offensive weapon.
Speaking of the offense, Indiana's attack has suffered quite a bit in the early goings of the regular season. The team is averaging just 91 points per contest, sixth-worst in the league, and its 40.1 conversion rate from the field is currently fifth-worst in the Association as well.
But that's OK, right? This team's rise to prominence last season was fueled by their defense, correct?
While the latter is true, the former is anything but.
The Pacers made a name for themselves as staunch defenders, but it takes a two-way effort to go anywhere worth mentioning. They themselves discovered that against the Miami Heat in the playoffs last season, when they visibly struggled on the offensive end.
And that was with Granger. Moving forward, this team will be tasked with establishing a semi-permanent offensive identity without their leading scorer.
That's far from easy. It becomes even more difficult when the team is shooting an atrocious 27.8 percent from long range and barely 40 percent overall.
Clearly, someone is going to have to step up.
Paging Roy Hibbert.
For Indiana to survive, to remain in the playoff race without Granger, it's going to take a collective two-way effort. At the same time, however, this team lacks a leader—an offensive leader.
Is David West fit for such a role? As the team's current leading scorer, to an extent he is. But he's 32 and operating on a surgically repaired knee himself.
Then perhaps Paul George?
He's still too young.
That leaves Hibbert, the $58 million man who has yet to prove he can lead this team, yet the one who must now lead its cause all the same.
Now, this isn't a personal knock on the big man, because he is a promising young talent. But he's off to an horrific start to the season.
The supposed pillar is averaging just 8.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest, posting a paltry PER of 9.68.
Is he blocking 3.3 shots per bout? Yes, that he is, and it's admittedly a monstrous stat.
But when you're 7'2", being paid nearly $15 million annually, play as your team's starting center and average a career high in minutes, there's no reason you should be getting out-rebounded by your own shooting guard. None whatsoever.
Oddly enough, that's one of the predicaments Hibbert finds himself in. George is currently out-rebounding him by nearly three boards tonight.
I don't care how early it is in the season—that's inexcusable.
So while the entire Pacers team needs to step up and become more efficient offensively in Granger's absence, the primary burden to shift that tide is now riding Hibbert's back.
If he can emerge as the consistent two-way presence we were led to believe he was, Indiana has a legitimate opportunity to remain a playoff contender. Even without Granger.
Should Hibbert set the tone for the rest of the team by perpetuating his underwhelming, borderline incompetent offensive tendencies, though, the postseason will be well out of reach.
And the Pacers will be forced to confront a reality much more detrimental than Granger's injury.
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