Two weeks ago, Danny Granger finally got to the point where his body was responding exactly the way he wanted it to. Then he started coughing up blood.
A nasty cough swept through the Heat’s locker room recently and the virus hit Granger especially hard. He couldn’t move his body without coughing for several days, and when he finally was healthy enough to get out of bed and come into work, he could talk to his coaches. Every time Granger tried to speak, he would cough.
“I had a cough to rival all coughs,” Granger said. “I would cough and then blood would come out. My wife was like, ‘Are you OK? Because this is not normal.’ ”
The blood, of course, was the scariest symptom of all.
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“I thought I was going to die,” Granger said of the ordeal, “but I survived.”
Granger missed three games because of the cough and when he came back earlier this week he combined to shoot 4 of 14 in games against the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. The most-recent setback came after missing 15 of the season’s first 17 games. Granger signed with Miami, in part because the Heat promised him they would ease him into the season after knee surgery this summer, but he knew it was time to start contributing a meaningful role to a struggling team.
On Thursday, he did just that.
In his most-significant game with the Heat (14-16) since joining the team, Granger scored nine points in the momentous victory against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had seven points in the fourth quarter, including a pivotal three-pointer to give the Heat a six-point cushion late in the game. His 10-foot jumper then helped ice the victory.
“I’d say my body has felt good for about two weeks, but this is the first game I felt really, really into it,” Granger said. “It’s very encouraging for me. I’m just glad my body finally listened to me.”
Granger was getting a little impatient with himself before the win against old foe James and the Cavaliers, but he has kept the proper perspective over the last few months while gradually building his base and strengthening the muscles around his knees.
“I guess you could say it has been a little tough, but I missed a whole year because of a knee injury, and if that didn’t teach me anything about patience, then nothing will,” Granger said. “I was lying in bed for two months playing with my kids because I couldn’t even walk on my knee. That taught me a lot and helped me.
“They say in your old age you develop patience, and I have it,” Granger said. “I just always see the finish line, and keep working towards it.”
Granger missed all but five meaningless games of the 2012-13 season, and sat out the entire playoffs, too. The Pacers dumped him the following season, and only now is he rounding himself into proper shape. He has dropped more than 10 pounds, and Granger said carrying less weight has helped.
Of course, the real test for Granger will be the nightly grind of the NBA season on his knees. The Heat’s trainers have been working with Granger so he can survive throughout the season. Similar to Mike Miller several years ago, Granger started building his core this summer and has gained strength and lost weight systematically.
“The program that they have me on has really helped me tremendously,” Granger said. “My body feels great. Not to mention that in Miami your body feels great anyway. That’s got a little bit to do with it, too.”
Granger knows he doesn’t have to play heavy minutes to contribute for his new team. Nights like Thursday when he scored nine points in 22 minutes will do just fine. That his Christmas comeback came against James made the night that much sweeter.
“It felt like Indiana-Miami,” Granger said. “That’s what it felt like.”
Coincidentally, the Heat plays the Pacers in Indianapolis on New Year’s Eve.
Grizzlies at Heat
When/where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena
TV/radio: Sun Sports and NBATV/FM 104.3, AM 790 and WAQI 710AM (Spanish)
Series: Heat leads 20-16.
Of note: The Heat rebounded from its worse loss of the season with arguably its most-important victory on Thursday. With Chris Bosh still out of action with a strained calf, the Heat defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas. Two days early, the Heat blew a 23-point second-half lead to the Philadelphia 76ers. Bosh has missed seven consecutive games but said Thursday that he plans to play against the Grizzlies. Officially, Bosh is still listed as out by the Heat and he will be reevaluated Saturday morning before the game. Heat reserve center Justin Hamilton remains sidelined after experiencing symptoms related to a concussion. Josh McRoberts is out for the season. The Grizzlies lost three consecutive games entering Friday’s game against the Houston Rockets. Tony Allen (right corneal abrasion) is questionable for the Grizzlies. Zach Randolph (sore right knee) is also questionable.