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Pacers rookie Tyler Hansbrough loomed large in his first game in the Orlando Summer League.
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images

Hansbrough shakes off critics at Summer League tipoff

By Greg Auman, for NBA.com
Posted Jul 7 2009 6:26AM

MAITLAND, Fla. -- The last time Tyler Hansbrough took to a basketball court, there were 72,922 fans in attendance as he helped North Carolina to its fifth national championship in Detroit.

On Monday, Hansbrough made his pro debut for the Indiana Pacers in front of a cozy 200 or so fans as the NBA Summer League opened at the Orlando Magic's RDV Sportsplex.

A lack of fans doesn't mean a lack of doubters, and Hansbrough -- after a game-high 17 points in an overtime win against the Nets/Sixers split squad -- said he'll continue to have critics who question whether he can play at the NBA level.

"I could probably score 30 points in an NBA game and some would still question whether I can play in the league or not," Hansborough said. "I don't really care. I'm not out to silence other people. ... I don't really listen to what other people say."

The four-time All-American, who left Chapel Hill as the ACC's all-time leading scorer, fell to the 13th pick in last month's draft.

Another transition for the 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward on Monday was coming off the bench, something he couldn't remember doing since his freshman year in high school. (In truth, he came off the bench once in his four years at UNC, on Senior Night his freshman year.)

Watching the first five minutes from the bench, Hansbrough admitted to a little nervousness -- he committed four fouls in seven minutes of first-half play. In the second half, he found his rhythm, finishing with a team-high 17 points on 6-for-13 shooting, along with five rebounds and three steals.

"In the second half, I just played basketball," he said. "I feel like I played well, and I'm getting acclimated to all the little rules of the NBA, the defensive 3-seconds and stuff like that."

Pacers president Larry Bird gave instruction to Hansbrough from courtside, something the rookie said he's lucky to have with his new team.

"If you're going to listen to anybody, you listen to a legend," Hansbrough said. "If you don't listen to him, you probably don't belong on a basketball court."

With Monday's game tied at the end of regulation, Indiana got the ball inside to Hansbrough, who missed on a bank shot that drew contact, but no foul. To know the team trusted him in a key situation was encouraging.

"It also throws a little pressure on you, but I'll take it," he said.

He got a physical welcome from second-year 76ers forward Marreese Speights, and the two exchanged words late in the first half.

"I guess that's the way people approach rookies," Hansbrough said. "I'm not going to back down. I have to play my game and try to get to know the guys. Sometimes that happens."

As for the smaller crowds, that will change when the NBA season starts. Hansbrough has been used to hearing from opposing fans for his four years at North Carolina, and said he'll continue to use that as a motivation in the NBA.

"There's not a lot of people yelling at me, telling me how bad I am, things like that, like I'm used to," Hansbrough said. "There's always going to be people like that, but it's all good. The only pressure I'm getting is to go win ballgames."

SPLIT-SQUAD WOES

The 76ers and Nets are sharing a team here in the NBA Summer League, which puts new Sixers coach Eddie Jordan in a strange position, if only for a week.

"It's different trying to help other guys' players, but it's the job we have to do," Jordan said after an overtime loss to Indiana on the first day of play in Orlando. "It's very different."

As a result, rookie point guard Jrue Holiday isn't learning Philadelphia's new offense, but instead of combination of what the two teams have used previously. Sharing a summer team saves both franchises some money during a difficult economy, and Jordan said the joint venture works better because the two teams are familiar with each other. It could be an indication of things to come in summer-league play, and one he'll have to get used to doing.

"I'm not a fan of it," Jordan said. "I like working with your own players, teaching your own guys, getting your guys in your system. I don't want to have to berate their player for not picking up. It doesn't seem right to get on their players ... Probably some teams are going to do it. It's a new world, economy-wise."

Speights led the Nets/Sixers split squad with 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Nets guard Chris Douglas-Roberts added 20 points in the 75-67 OT loss.

GAME NOTES

THUNDER 88, MAGIC 77
Second-year guard Russell Westbrook had game highs with 22 points and nine assists, going 16-for-18 at the line to lead Oklahoma City to an easy win. Rookie guard James Harden, the third pick in last month's draft, made a solid debut, scoring 17 points off the bench on 6-for-9 shooting. ... Guard Shaun Livingston, making a comeback from major surgery on his left knee, had six assists and zero turnovers in 31 minutes. ... Forward Ryan Anderson led the Magic with 21 points, while forward Jeremy Richardson had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

CELTICS 87, JAZZ 56
Second-year forward Bill Walker had 14 points to lead five Celtics in double digits, and the Celtics hit 55 percent from the field in an easy rout of the Jazz. ... Celtics rookie Lester Hudson, a guard from Tennessee-Martin taken in the second round, had 11 points in 19 minutes in his debut. Forward Nick Fazekas, a second-round pick of the Mavs in 2007, had three of the team's seven 3-pointers on the way to 13 points. ... Rookie forward Josh Duncan of Xavier led the Jazz with 12 points off the bench, with first-rounder Eric Maynor adding nine points and four assists.

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