The Fast Break: Hansbrough's Potential Peeking Through
Posted Mar 31 2011 11:11AM
"The Fast Break" is a weekly NBA notebook column that features interviews, insight, international news and more. New every Thursday on NBA.com/fastbreak.
Newark, N.J. – The transformation from one of the most decorated college basketball players in recent memory to NBA star hasn’t been easy for Tyler Hansbrough. It’s not that his talent has had trouble transferring over. He just hasn’t gotten many opportunities.
Life in the NBA, however, is improving for Hansbrough. The turnaround started when the Indiana Pacers fired coach Jim O’Brien in late January. O’Brien never seemed to trust having the former North Carolina standout on the floor for long periods of time, as is evidence of Hansbrough’s 15-minute average this season under the old regime. Granted, O’Brien wrote Hansbrough into his starting lineup the last month of his tenure, but even then only played him sparingly.
The second Frank Vogel was handed the reigns, he let Hansbrough know he was going to be a big part of the Pacers’ future. Hansbrough’s minutes improved – he’s now a mainstay in Indiana’s starting lineup -- and so have his averages: 30 mpg, 16.8 ppg and 7.1 rpg since March 1.
“I’m definitely starting to click and play better,” Hansbrough said. “It was just a matter of time of basically getting on the court and getting some playing time. Under our old coach, that wasn’t happening, he was just making me ride the bench. The more and more I play, the more comfortable I get and get in good shape out there, too.”
“He’s just growing, his confidence,” Vogel said. “His shot-making has returned to where it was in college from a standpoint of if he’s open, it’s going down. He plays the game so hard that even when he’s making mistakes, he usually makes up for it very quickly with his energy and passion.”
The 25-year-old’s rookie season didn’t go smoothly after the Pacers selected him with the 13th pick of the 2010 Draft. On the floor, the defensive schemes and rotations were challenging. Off, inner ear problems and a concussion sidelined Hansbrough for all but 29 games.
“It was frustrating, especially at the end of the year,” Hansbrough said. “This year, I felt there were times I should have been on the court. It didn’t happen like that. So I kept getting better, kept working out and when my chance came, I was ready.”
Hansbrough’s play as of late – he’s scored in double-figures in 15 of 19 games – is a primary reason the Pacers are still in the playoff hunt. They hold the eighth playoff spot with a 34-42 record and the Charlotte Bobcats are one game back with six remaining.
"I think as the season's gradually gone on, he's gotten more and more minutes and more and more confidence,” former college teammate Brandan Wright said. “He's the reason why they have an opportunity to get that last (playoff) spot."
It’s a transformation that has taken time, and with patients, comes reward.
Marc Gasol (Spain) donated $1k for every point scored in Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls – he dropped 14 – to the Japan Relief and Recovery Fund. Pau Gasol (Spain), Al Horford (Dominican Republic) and Danilo Gallinari (Italy) also made similar pledges…Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortot (Poland) suffered a nasal fracture in Friday’s game against the New Orleans Hornets. The big man didn't miss any time because of the injury…Portland Trail Blazers guard Patty Mills (Australia) signed autographs last Friday to raise money for flood relief in his home country…Leandro Barbosa (Brazil) made his first trip back to the US Airways Center since the Phoenix Suns shipped him to the Toronto Raptors in mid-July. Barbosa, who spent the first seven years of his career in Phoenix, scored 14 points in the loss…Miami Heat center Joel Anthony (Canada) has been playing despite a broken nose. He’s been sharing floor time in the middle with fellow countryman Jamaal Magloire...San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (France) sat out Monday’s game against Portland with a bruised patella. He’s expected to return Thursday. Coach Gregg Popovich may rest him more often in the future ahead of the playoffs…Phoenix Suns forward Mickael Pietrus (France) left last Wednesday’s game with a sprained right knee. There’s no timetable on his return…Memphis Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi (Iran) scored 10 points in 12 minutes in their win over the Utah Jazz last week…New Jersey Nets guard Sasha Vujacic (Slovenia) picked up four straight starts for the team with Deron Williams out with a hand injury.
Fire & Ice
• Playoff Beards: At least one team in each conference doesn’t plan on staying clean cut throughout their playoff run. The Orlando Magic and Grizzlies have pledged to grow the always popular playoff beards. While the Grizzlies, who hold the eighth spot in the East, have already started letting the facial hair mature, the Magic don’t plan on doing so until the playoff begin in mid-April.
• Cleveland Cavaliers: The brightest spot in Cleveland’s dark season came on Tuesday with a win over LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Cavs had fallen flat in their first three meetings this season and wanted so badly to knock off the team their once-hero fled to.
• Kobe Bryant: Bryant took home Western Conference Player of the Week honors for games play through March 27 thanks to a stellar offensive output. The 13-time All-Star led the league in scoring that stretch, averaging over 36 points, including a season-high 42 against the Suns.
• David West: The Hornets looked like locks for the West’s seventh playoff spot until West suffered a season-ending ACL injury last Thursday. They’re 2-1 in three games since, but the loss of their top offensive contributor and second-leading rebounder will make keeping that seed and themselves in the playoffs tougher.
• Utah Jazz: The Jazz suffered a tight 110-108 loss to the Houston Rockets on March 20 and haven’t been able to recover since. They’ve lost six straight and finished March 4-10. Utah was in the playoff hunt, but now another loss or two will send their chances down to zero.
• San Antonio Spurs: The league’s best team this season has struggled in their last four, which they’ve lost to potential playoff teams, including Denver, Portland and Memphis. The absence of center Tim Duncan (sprained left ankle) has certainly hurt. He’s expected back for the playoffs though, and that’s when he’s needed most.
NBA StatsCube Cruncher
3.43 - The point improvement in the paint for the Los Angeles Clippers this year. The transcending super-stardom of dunk machine Blake Griffin surely has to be attributed to the increase. They aren’t the top team in terms of improving on inside points though – they’re second. The Blazers are up 4.37 in 2010-11. (StatsCube Index)