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Hansbrough Still Quieting Skeptics

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

March 14, 2011

(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

For a guy not tall enough, not athletic enough, not explosive enough, Tyler Hansbrough seems to be managing fairly well in The Association.

All he did Sunday was carry the Pacers' offense with a career-high 29 points to lead a desperately needed 106-93 victory in New York. That was his fourth straight game of at least 20 points, his ninth straight in double figures.

"Tyler Hansbrough," said Frank Vogel, "is a beast."

When Vogel took over as interim coach 22 games ago and started talking about changing the identity of the team to "smashmouth" basketball, tell the truth: Hansbrough's image was the one that popped into your head. Nothing against Roy Hibbert or Josh McRoberts, but they play more of a vertical game.

Hansbrough is more, well, grounded. He plays where the elbows are chin-high, where the path to the basket must be plowed rather than driven. You know, where mouths are smashed.

When he catches the ball in the lane, you almost hope his first shot gets blocked, because that's when the fun really starts.

It makes you wonder how so many scouts doubted he would succeed in the NBA despite an impeccable college pedigree. But Hansbrough is reminding everyone just exactly why he wasn't just a good college player but the best of his decade.

In the last four games, he has averaged 24.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and shot 59 percent from the field. In case you are particularly skeptical and believe this might be a fluky hot streak, there is more evidence to the contrary. Since the All-Star break, he has averaged 17.3 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 46 percent.

In the process, he's sending a message to the Pacers' front office that their offseason plans might not need to include finding a new starter at power forward.

"I don't know if he's trying to prove anything," Vogel said. "I just think he has a motor that is really unparalleled in this league. Nobody goes harder than that kid. Nobody in the league plays harder than Tyler Hansbrough. Whatever his motivation is, he just goes hard."

That's how a guy who has never been the best athlete on the court somehow manages, as often as not, to be one of the best players.