Pacers’ Granger out vs. Bulls with sprained left ankle


Dec 13

If the Indiana Pacers are to come into the United Center and snap the Bulls’ winning streak of five games, they’ll have to do it without leading scorer Danny Granger.

Pacers Coach Jim O’Brien confirmed that Granger will not play due to a sprained left ankle and that rookie Paul George will play in his place, along with Dahntay Jones.

It’s good news for the Bulls, who have seen Granger average 28.0 points – 10.1 above his career average – in his last five games against them. Meanwhile, the Pacers may have to be even stronger in an area they’ve already been above average.

“We’re defending well, we’re one of the top field goal defensive teams,” O’Brien said of Indiana’s solid start. “It begins and ends right there. Any success—and our guys aren’t too happy about being 11-11 right now frankly—when you’re [No.] 1 or 2 in the league in field goal defense, you should be better.”

Besides the defense, another bright spot for the Pacers has been third year center Roy Hibbert. Roughly one-fourth of the way through the regular season, Hibbert is averaging career highs in points (14.8), rebounds (8.7) and assists (3.1). But apparently O’Brien—and Hibbert himself—still feel he has a lot of room for improvement.

“I don’t think he’s having a very good season to tell you the truth,” said O’Brien. “I think he can play at a much, much higher level right away than he’s doing right now. I don’t think he’s being the facilitator of our offense that he’s going to become. I think he’s a great passer, but can be a much better rebounder.

“I have high expectations and my expectations probably aren’t as high as Roy’s expectations,” O’Brien continued. “So even though he can be mentioned as most improved, I think he has a long way to go and a long way to go this year.”

Moving back to the topic of defense, O’Brien applauded the job done by Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau in that department.

“It seems like he’s building them into a contender-type defensive team,” said O’Brien. “He does not allow slippage defensively—guys know their assignments, know where they’re supposed to be, know they need to be there with an attitude. His team is playing with a very, very high energy level.

“Offensively, they have a terrific inside-outside combination with a couple wins in [Luol] Deng and [Kyle] Korver in particular that can space the court,” continued O’Brien. “With Rose, it used to be that you could sag off of him and run under. Now, he shoots better from the three than he does from five feet to the three point line.”

Obama to Bryant: “Rose may have your number”

Following their second straight NBA title, the Los Angeles Lakers met with President Barack Obama on Monday at an event in conjunction with NBA Cares at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington.

During his time with the Lakers, President Obama, a well-known Bulls fan, applauded their accomplishments, but couldn’t resist making a couple comments to reassure those wondering if his hoops loyalty was in question.

“I want to congratulate Coach Phil Jackson on earning his eleventh NBA championship ring,” said Obama. “It was his fifth championship with the Lakers, which I should point out, is still one behind the six he won with the Chicago Bulls. Kobe said, ‘Not for long though.’

“It has been a long drought since Phil left Chicago,” added Obama. “Although I have to say, they witnessed in person on Friday that my Bulls are showing some signs of life.”

Obama, of course, was referring to Chicago’s 88-84 victory over Los Angeles at the United Center. Derrick Rose was the recipient of “MVP, MVP” chants late in the game after leading the way for the Bulls with 29 points and nine assists.

On Monday, after the team presented Obama with a Lakers banner and team autographed ball, Bryant made an inaudible comment to the President to which Obama laughed, paused and then replied, “It looks like Rose may have your number.”

TV ratings on the rise

Comcast SportsNet Chicago, WGN-TV and WCIU-TV, the local television broadcast partners of the Bulls, each posted significant television ratings to start the 2010-11 NBA season. CSN’s ratings are up 63 percent from last season, while WCIU’s ratings have risen 42 percent and WGN-TV’s ratings are up 39 percent. In November, CSN’s Bulls numbers averaged a 3.87 household rating (approximately 135,550 households watching per game).

Bulls vs. Pacers season notes

The Bulls lead the all-time series with the Pacers 81-72 and are 54-21 against Indiana in the Windy City… since the 2003-04 season Chicago has gone 11-3 against the Pacers at the United Center … the Bulls have won or split the season series versus the Pacers the last six seasons … against the Pacers last year, Derrick Rose averaged 24.8 ppg, 6.3 apg and 4.8 rpg rpg in 39.0 mpg; in three contests against the Bulls, Danny Granger paced Indiana with averages of 25.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg in 37.3 mpg … last season, the Bulls outscored the Pacers 105.8 ppg to 101.5 ppg … in 153 games between the Bulls and Pacers, they have gone to overtime just three times (Chicago is 2-1), with the most recent overtime contest occurring on March 19, 1995, a 103-96 Pacers win at Market Square Arena.

Audio—Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau’s pregame comments (12.13.10):

Audio—Pacers Coach Jim O’Brien’s pregame comments (12.13.10):

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