NBA: Hansbrough back in reserve role
INDIANAPOLIS ó Tyler Hansbrough never faced challenges like these at North Carolina.
The man formerly known as ěPsycho Tî left Chapel Hill as one of college basketballís most popular and decorated players in recent memory, but his pro career has been a mixed bag. After fighting through an injury and an illness his first year and a disagreement with his coach in the early part of his second year, Hansbrough emerged as a solid starter for the Indiana Pacers during the second half of last season.
That wasnít good enough for management. When free agency finally arrived after the lockout, Pacers president Larry Bird went out and brought in former All-Star David West as the starting power forward.
Hansbrough has chosen to view Westís arrival as an opportunity.
ěIím not going to look at it as a self-centered guy, to say this guy could take a lot of my minutes,î Hansbrough said. ěI think, weíre on the team together and weíre trying to win ballgames. Thatís what itís about.î
Both Bird and coach Frank Vogel have said they expect Hansbrough to remain a key contributor to the team. West sees the two as a tandem, and he plans to take Hansbrough under his wing.
ěI want to help him, help him develop as a young guy,î West said. ěI feel like he can have an impact.î
Westís acquisition is just the latest in a series of events that have affected Hansbrough since he entered the league. As a rookie, he missed the early part of the season with a right shin injury. Once he returned, an inner ear infection that caused vertigo cost him the rest of his season.
Last season, coach Jim OíBrien barely played him before Vogel gave him a chance. Hansbrough was clearly upset with OíBrien and made no effort to hide how he felt about it.
Hansbrough said he understands the teamís latest move. He respects West, an eight-year veteran with career averages of 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
ěIt helps me,î he said. ěIím looking forward to learning from him, competing against him every day in practice. I think itís going to make me better, just seeing a veteran guy thatís been around the league. Maybe I can pick up a couple things from him. It also makes our team much better.î
Hansbrough already has learned plenty. His ability to draw fouls is rare for a young player; just like at North Carolina, he has spent a fair amount of time at the free-throw line. His ability to run the floor makes him a threat in transition, and his sheer desire gives his team second chances.
In one special week last season, Hansbrough had 29 points and 30 points in back-to-back wins over the New York Knicks, then had 29 points and 12 rebounds against the Bulls in a 115-108 overtime win on March 18.
Itís not just a matter of numbers ó Hansbrough has improved his skill set. He has added a consistent midrange jumper that opened up his game. For a while last season, he was the teamís No. 2 scoring option to Danny Granger while Mike Dunleavy recovered from injury.
This offseason, he got stronger and worked on extending his range further and making better use of his left hand.
For once, he wasnít recovering from an injury or illness.
ěI havenít put on much weight, Iíve just been in the weight room,î he said. ěThis is the first time Iíve gotten a chance to train. Iím not working out an injury, sitting on my tail, watching TV and thinking about, ëAm I going to be healthy?í I was healthy, so I took advantage and got my work in.î
Like most players, the shortened training camp has been rough for him, in part because of the lockout.
ěMy bodyís definitely sore,î Hansbrough said. ěThatís the way itís supposed to be. But I think once games start rolling back and practices start rolling down, my bodyís going to feel great. Iím looking forward to it. Iíll be fine.î
More than anything, Hansbrough is concerned with the thing that defined him most at North Carolina ó winning.
ěI think weíre definitely looking to move up in the East,î he said. ěNot be one of the last teams to make the playoffs in the East, maybe get one of the upper seeds and make a good playoff run.î
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap
The Associated Press