Hansbrough showing he's ready for whatever awaits
Dec. 21, 2011 -- Starting is not in the cards for Tyler Hansbrough. As you might expect, that hasn't stopped him from going all-in every time he steps on the court.
The brightest spot in the Pacers' two preseason losses to Chicago, Hansbrough led the team in minutes, scoring and rebounding in both games, averaging 21.5 points and 12.0 boards. Starting at power forward while David West gets acclimated to the team and regains his game legs, Hansbrough knows his days in the lineup are numbered.
Once West is fully ready to go, Hansbrough will head to the bench. Make that the second unit. Hansbrough has little intention of sitting, regardless of role.
"I don't plan on sitting on the bench," he said. "I think I have a lot to contribute to this team. I'm going to come out here and prove myself and hopefully we'll see what happens."
What may evolve is the pairing of West and Hansbrough with some frequency, especially when matched up against the increasing number of teams that lack a traditional center. With Roy Hibbert struggling in Chicago Tuesday night, the two power forwards combined for 10 points in a 14-6 burst that cut an 18-point deficit to 76-66 late in the third period.
Hansbrough finished that game with 24 points and 13 rebounds. West, making his first preseason appearance off the bench, played 15 minutes and had eight points and four rebounds.
"I expect to come in here and play with David," Hansbrough said. "I think he's a good player to learn a lot from. He's been in the league a long time. He's a great addition to the team. Obviously, what he brings to the court is going to help us and makes our team that much deeper. Hopefully it will pay off and we'll get into the playoffs and make a better run."
Though this is Hansbrough's third NBA season and he entered the league as a four-year college standout at North Carolina, he is far from a finished product. Injuries and health issues sidetracked his ability to prepare for each of the past two seasons.
Once he found his rhythm in 2009-10, he began to emerge as a consistently productive force, starting the final 19 games and all five against the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. In the 16 games when he played at least 30 minutes, Hansbrough averaged 19.7 points and 7.9 rebounds and shot .506 from the field.
"This offseason has been particularly important to me because it's my first healthy offseason," Hansbrough said. "I've actually had time to train and prepare like I want to. I really worked on my left hand and my ability to make post moves and kind of expanded my range a little bit. I'm excited about it.
"People say if you're a four-year guy you are what you are but the NBA is much different than college. There's so much of a learning curve. The game's different, it's played a lot different. There's things you have to learn and pick up on to really get a grasp and a feel for the NBA."
Since West was signed, Coach Frank Vogel has maintained Hansbrough's role may change but his prominence within the rotation will not. In fact, he could be even more of an offensive focal point with the second unit, which needs scoring punch from the frontcourt. The other reserve big men -- Jeff Foster, Lou Amundson and Jeff Pendergraph -- all play with high energy but are not offensive threats.
"He plays at one speed," Vogel said of Hansbrough. "From day one of training camp he didn't look like he was coming out of a lockout. He's got a motor like doesn't exist in this league. He's terrific."
Whenever he enters a game, and whomever he joins on the floor, Hansbrough will play as he always has -- like every possession might be his last. And that quality, more than anything else, assures of him of a prominent role.
"I feel like I've done some things here to prove my point that I can help us win," he said. "Whatever they see my role as, I'll do that and go from there."