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Despite moves around East, Granger sees Pacers as No. 2

CBSSports.com wire reports
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The Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks made fairly significant moves to improve their rosters. Still, Pacers forward Danny Granger still believes Indiana is the second best team in the Eastern Conference behind the Miami Heat.

"It's going to be tough," Granger said. "Brooklyn, they are going to be a threat. Obviously, Miami is going to be there, but I think we still view ourselves as a top-two team in the East."

The Pacers will return the same starting five and, with associate head coach Brian Shaw back in the fold, the same coaching staff from last season.

Shaw will return to be coach Frank Vogel's lead assistant for the second straight season.

Shaw interviewed for head coaching jobs in Charlotte, Orlando and Portland. He pulled his name out of the Orlando and Portland coaching search.

"It's been a long offseason meeting with different teams about their coaching positions, but when it came down to it, I decided it was best to return to the Pacers, where the future is very bright for the organization," Shaw said. "I want to be part of it."

The Pacers believe the continuity will be key for them as they try to build off last season's success.

The Pacers finished with the fifth best record in the NBA and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

"Give it a chance because I think we have the makings of a good team. That's the object. The object is not to get names you hear every day. It's about getting better," new president Donnie Walsh said, responding to fan criticism of the Pacers' offseason moves. "The one thing you don't want to do is mess up the strength of a team. The strength of this team is they all get along, they all play hard, they play together."

Walsh doesn't know how long he plans to remain with the franchise during his second go-round with the Pacers, but he knows one thing for sure: He wants Larry Bird to return whenever he's ready.

Bird stepped down as president in June.

"[Bird] told me he was going to go away for a year. I told him, 'I'll be here, and whenever you want to come back, you come back.' I want him to come back," Walsh said.

Training camp doesn't officially start until Oct. 2, but the Pacers plan to get together early to prepare for the season. The team is holding a minicamp in Los Angeles later this month as part of a bonding experience on and off the court. Granger is hosting a cookout for his teammates at his house.

The Pacers are set to play four preseason games in Indiana, but only three will be played in Indianapolis. They'll play Minnesota, Atlanta and Memphis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The fourth game, in which they'll be the road team, will be played at Notre Dame against the Chicago Bulls.

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