Danny Granger stands by statement

INDIANAPOLIS -- Danny Granger hasn't changed his mind.

The Indiana Pacers' leading scorer still believes his team matches up better against Chicago than the Boston Celtics in the playoffs because of the Bulls' reliance on Derrick Rose. Nor does he care if that opinion gets tacked to a bulletin board in the Bulls' locker room as they prepare for Saturday's opening game at the United Center.

"It's the honest truth," Granger said following the Pacers' practice at Conseco Fieldhouse on Thursday.

"In the playoffs, you don't need no bulletin-board material. Especially a team like Chicago; they're the No. 1 seed and have their eyes on a championship, so they should be ready to play regardless."

Granger's recent statement wasn't intended as an insult to the Bulls, and certainly wasn't a slight to Rose. The Pacers tossed enough verbal bouquets at the point guard on Thursday to leave a scent that could be picked up in Chicago. Team president Larry Bird went first.

Bird, who achieved legendary status after leading Boston to three NBA championships in the 1980s, said he probably would have voted for Rose as the league's Most Valuable Player if he had a ballot, with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James close behind.

"Rose seems to have taken his game to another level in a short period of time," Bird said. "I knew he was a very talented player, but I didn't know he was going to be this good. He's quick, he's strong, he's powerful and he's starting to hit his jump shot, which makes him almost impossible to guard."

Even if some of the Pacers believe containing Rose makes the top-seeded Bulls a more beatable team than the Celtics or another Eastern Conference contender, they readily acknowledge the difficulty of doing that. Pacers point guard Darren Collison gives up three inches and at least 30 pounds to Rose, so he's not equipped to do the job alone.

"It's more how we defend," Collison said. "If we're not tied in together and don't trust each other, it doesn't matter how much film we watch."

The Pacers will try multiple defenders on Rose -- 6-foot-6 defensive specialist Dahntay Jones will get a shot as well -- but they're hoping to make the task a group effort. They've devoted much of their recent practice time to defending the Bulls' screening action for Rose, and plan to rotate and give help when he does penetrate.

All of which is more easily drawn up and discussed than actually done, Pacers coach Frank Vogel admitted.

"His speed and size are unparalleled," said Vogel, who took over for the fired Jim O'Brien on Jan. 30. "He's definitely the fastest guy in the NBA. He's got Allen Iverson quickness, but he's very strong. Chauncey Billups strong. That combination is a killer, so you try to make him beat you from the perimeter but he's now established that he's a great jump-shooter. It's a pick-your-poison type of thing with him. He's got it all."

Mark Montieth is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis.