Danny Granger Can Be Suns Veteran Leader


Phoenix- Chemistry is a very fickle thing in professional sports.

It can tend to be a year-to-year thing. One year it can be fantastic, but then go down the tube for no specific reason the very next season. The tricky part is to find the right mix of chemistry not only on the court, but off it as well.

Great teams in this league have both, and if you don’t have chemistry it can be extremely difficult to win regardless of the talent level a team may have.

The Phoenix Suns (39-43) 2014-15 season will not be remembered by fans for the chemistry displayed by the team on the court or off, despite the players praising the off court closeness of this group.

General Manager Ryan McDonough let well-liked veterans in the locker room such as Ish Smith and Dionte Christmas walk, as well as letting respected veteran and starting forward Channing Frye sign a free agency deal with the Orlando Magic this past summer.

While Christmas and Smith did not provide the Suns with much on the court, they were guys everyone gravitated to in the locker room for their upbeat personality and team first mentality. Even small personnel moves like those could disrupt the chemistry of a team, especially one that thrived on the togetherness of last season’s 48-win squad.

“I feel like we lost some of that [veteran leadership] when Channing Frye went to Orlando in free agency, so that’s probably the biggest area of need for us,” McDonough acknowledged on Wednesday. “So we may need to bring somebody in in free agency or via trade who fills that role. It’s something that we are going have to look at over the off-season.”

Newcomers Isaiah Thomas and Anthony Tolliver did not pan out or fit in with the Suns and were sent packing during the season. Goran Dragic, another respected locker room leader, cried disloyalty and forced a trade out of town.

That left the Suns without a true veteran leader in the locker room, until former All-Star Danny Granger decided to report to the Suns after being acquired from the Miami Heat in the Dragic trade.

Granger is a 10-year-veteran that has been on winning teams whom have made deep runs in the postseason. He is well-spoken, been an All-Star and can potentially fill the role that Frye played last season as the guy players can turn to in any situation.

“I saw a lot of positive things and the talent here is overwhelming,” Granger said on the make-up of the roster. “We are one of the youngest teams and I think someone told me when they added me we weren’t the youngest anymore.

“The talent wins in this league and that is one thing you can’t win without, and that is one thing this team has is young promising talent.”

Talent and potential weren’t the issues this season. The biggest problem was the constant immaturity players showed, especially veterans like P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris.

Whether it was missing a team bus (multiple times) or calling out fans after a blow-out loss at home or the technical fouls, Granger sees it as a young team gaining experience and growing up.

“Whenever you have a young group I think leadership is lacking,” Granger said on the immaturity issue plaguing the Suns this season. “Even the younger guys that have had led the team or will lead the team have done a great job of doing so much with what your experience will allow you to do.

“Leadership comes with experience and I think we have some guys on this team that will be really good in this role.”

Granger’s biggest impact to the Suns season came in guiding rookie T.J. Warren during the final month of the season. The two players share the same agent, and a mutual friend in David West.

There was a moment after Granger’s first home game in March since joining the Suns where he talked with Warren after the game for five minutes about specific plays in the locker room. That is exactly the type of leadership Granger can bring to a team, and it perhaps had an affect on Warren’s strong play at the end of the year.

“He is a great kid with a bright future in this league and I look forward to helping him as much as I can,” Granger said.

There is no doubt that Granger can have a very strong  and positive presence in the Suns locker room next year. The question is, will he be healthy enough to play?

The former New Mexico graduate has only played in 76 games combined in the past three season due to his knee injuries. His decision to join the Suns was based heavily on the Suns training staff and what they did to revive Grant Hill’s career years ago.

“That’s going to depend on his health, “Suns President Lon Babby said on Granger coming back next season. “We’ve put him here with the best training staff in the NBA in our opinion, maybe one that’s really world class. That’s been one of our aspirations in the time I’ve been here and I think we’ve got the right people in that regard.

“He’s comfortable with it and he’s made progress, so it’s all going to depend on what his health is. What’s particularly appealing to him, and we picked his brain a little bit today, was just his observations on our team and his capacity for leadership and his experience and his playoff experience and just being a solid veteran. Obviously that’s something that we need and if he’s capable of providing that, that would be a plus. He’s a very professional person and again, very intelligent and we enjoy having him here, it’s just going to depend on how he feels. He thinks he has more left and we hope he’s right. He’s going to work hard, I know that.”

Granger will spend the summer in Phoenix and continue to visit the Suns training staff daily for workouts and treatment. He hopes to be able to play with 100% health next season and is looking forward to playing at least another four years.  He also wouldn’t mind being that veteran leader to help bring the team chemistry back to where it was last season.

“I have always embraced leadership roles, even younger in my career I had leadership roles in Indiana,” Granger pointed out. “It will be something I embrace and I always pride myself as a teacher, even my two kids have to listen to my lectures as I like to teach so it is something I will look forward to.”

More 2014-15 Phoenix Suns Player Grades:

Jerel McNeal

Next: Jerel McNeal: 2014-15 Phoenix Suns Player Grades

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