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by Mark Montieth
October 12, 2012
Ben Hansbrough knows the deal. He's an undrafted rookie who doesn't have a guaranteed contract, and is playing behind 2 1/2 point guards who do. George Hill will start for the Indiana Pacers this season. D.J. Augustin will back him up. Combo guard Lance Stephenson is regarded as the third option.
Hansbrough, however, surely had some front office executives mulling other options after his performance in the Pacers' 96-91 victory over Minnesota at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday. He finished with 10 points and seven assists off the bench, with five points and six assists coming in the fourth quarter when the Pacers overcame a 70-63 deficit.
"I think I made a strong statement," he said. "I think I made a statement that I can play at this level. But it's just one game. I have to continue to prove myself and be ready to play."
Hansbrough is the younger brother of Tyler, the former three-time All-American and the Pacers' first-round draft pick in 2010. Tyler sat out Friday's game, as coach Frank Vogel wanted to allow more playing time for Jeff Pendergraph, but Ben filled in with a Hansbroughian performance. He dove on the floor for loose balls, made plays at both ends and showed off a shooting touch that must have left Tyler feeling jealous.
"It's interesting, because Ben's been the odd-man-out sometimes (in practice), but he really stepped up," said Paul George, who led the Pacers with 19 points. "When his number was called, he was ready. He was really the one who sparked it."
What Hansbrough sparked was a fourth-quarter landslide that buried the Timberwolves with an 18-0 run early in the final period. Hansbrough started it with a three-pointer on an assist from Gerald Green. He assisted Green on a turnaround jumper on the next possession, and later hit Pendergraph for a dunk. Green followed with a three-pointer off Hansbrough's feed, then Hansbrough hit a step-back jumper for a 77-75 lead—the Pacers' first since the first quarter—that forced a Minnesota timeout with 8:22 left in the game.
The Pacers ran off 10 more points after the interruption, with Hansbrough assisting on two of the fieve field goals. Finally, with Minnesota still within four points, he lobbed an inbounds pass from the right sideline that caught Green in stride left of the basket for a dunk that justified everyone's price of admission.
"I tell you what, I have to give Coach (Frank) Vogel credit on that one," Hansbrough said. "He drew up a heckuva play. He said that would be the last option. All the options were out, so I looked up and Gerald was kind of open on that backdoor and I just threw it at the top of the square."
Green drew a technical foul on the play for taunting after staring at defender Jermaine Taylor.
"I kind of know the guy," Green said. "We have a little history ... it wasn't nothing personal. I got caught up in the moment. I'll never do it again."
Hansbrough was the Big East Player of the Year as a senior at Notre Dame in 2011, averaging 18.4 points. The NBA lockout blocked an entrance to the league last season, so he played in Germany and Slovenia. He played with the Pacers' Summer League team in Orlando over the summer, and earned an invitation to training camp.
The assumption has been that he was with the team because of his connection with Tyler, and that he was merely providing a warm body for training camp. Friday's performance, however, might have altered some viewpoints.
"It was a lot of fun," Hansbrough said. "This is a really fun group to be with. I told Jeff (Pendergraph) after the game this is probably the most fun I've had since Notre Dame. Probably longer than that, actually."
"I'm still not on the team, but I just want to continue to prove myself."
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