Max Mandel's Blog

Max Mandel

Dec 09

Getting to know the opponent: Q&A with Pacers.com

By Max Mandel Posted in: Pacers, Blazers
When the Trail Blazers and Pacers meet up tonight in Indianapolis, it will be a match up of two teams who are dealing with serious injuries. Obviously, Portland fans are still recovering from the devastating injury to Greg Oden, which will sideline him for the rest of the season. However, Pacers fans are facing the reality of not having Danny Granger for the next couple of months. Granger is one of the most versatile and talented guys in the league, and there is no doubt that the Pacers will miss his 24 points per game. In order to get a sense for how the Pacers will handle the absence of Granger, we decided to check in with Conrad Brunner of Pacers.com. We would like to thank Conrad for taking the time to answer these questions, and for providing his insight on this young and talented Pacers team.

I am a Trail Blazers fan: Obviously it will be impossible for the Pacers to completely replicate the production that Danny Granger provided. However, what guys do you think will see their roles change or evolve because of the Granger injury?

Conrad Brunner: It's a major opportunity for Brandon Rush, who was demoted from the starting lineup a week ago but now will start in Granger's place. He needs to play with confidence and aggression and the productivity will follow. Last season when Granger missed 11 games with a foot injury, both Troy Murphy and T.J. Ford boosted their scoring averages above 18, so I'd expect more from those two guys, as well.

I am a Trail Blazers fan: Along with the injury to Granger, the Pacers have battled some other serious injuries at the start of the season. How close are Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy to being 100% and ready to contribute at a high level?

Conrad Brunner: Murphy is back to 100 percent physically but is still working at finding his rhythm. His 3-point shot hasn't been falling at its usual rate. Dunleavy has been limited to roughly 20 minutes per game since coming back, with the medical staff charged with making the recommendations on when to increase his playing time. He has played well thus far, although showing the expected signs of rust on his shot. He's basically missed most of the last season-and-a-half, so there's a lot of conditioning and leg strength that needs to be regained.

I am a Trail Blazers fan: After a great preseason, Roy Hibbert has had a solid start to the regular season. What improvements have you seen from Hibbert so far this season, and what type of ceiling do you think he has in this league?

Conrad Brunner
: Hibbert has been streaky. He had a stretch of seven games where he had five double-doubles, but hasn't had one in eight or nine games since. In a passing-game offense, traditional low-post opportunities aren't as frequent so Roy has to adapt to starting at the high post, setting screens, moving the ball and working himself onto the low block. When he catches the ball, he must make quick decisions. He's a good guy and an extremely hard worker so, when you combine that with his obvious skills and size, he has the ability to be a strong force for years to come.

I am a Trail Blazers fan: One guy who has really surprised with his production is Dahntay Jones. After being a defensive stopper with the Nuggets, are you at all surprised with how strong of a scorer Jones has been?

Conrad Brunner: I honestly can't remember the last time a veteran who had shown no propensity for scoring suddenly became a capable threat. It happens with young guys semi-regularly but not with vets. A respectable mid-range shooter, Dahntay attacks the basket well. Because he is not used to playing with the ball, he needs to get comfortable with the pass-and-cut mentality of O'Brien's system but his scoring output has indeed been a very pleasant surprise.

I am a Trail Blazers fan: In the 2009 NBA Draft, the Pacers took Tyler Hansbrough, one of the most recognizable college stars in recent years. What type of role has Hansbrough played so far, and has there been anything about his game that has surprised you?

Conrad Brunner: Because he missed more than 3 months, including all of training camp and the preseason, Hansbrough has been playing a lot of catch-up, both in terms of basketball conditioning and system knowledge. You can watch practice as much as you want but nothing replaces participating when it comes to learning the speed and force of the NBA game. He plays with every bit of the passion I expected and has demonstrated much more athleticism than many critics suggested. He also is a much better interior defender than I expected, with the ability to move his feet well and maintain balance and leverage. Like Dunleavy, his minutes have been limited because of his medical situation but once he's turned loose, it should be something to see.





1 Comments

  1. I look forward to reading these whenever they come out. Without having NBA League Pass, and with Sportscenter's content going from highlights to drama, it's hard to keep up with the rest of the League.

    by DHawes22 on 12/9/2009 1:16 PM
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