Sept. 23 Update: Hansbrough met with his doctors on Wednesday, Sept. 22, and was cleared to return to full-contact workouts. Hansbrough will thus be able to participate in practice when training cam popens on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
It doesn't take a wild imagination to look down the road and see a lineup featuring Darren Collison at the point, Paul George and Danny Granger at the wings and Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert up front.
In fact, with training camp set to open next week, at least three-fifths of that lineup is pretty well set with Collison, Granger and Hibbert. George may be a year away.
The real wild card in that bunch, of course, is Hansbrough. The 2009 first-round pick has been out since mid-January recovering from an inner ear disorder but appears to be closing in to a return to the court. I sat down with Hansbrough after his morning workout Monday for the following question-and-answer session -- his first since last season.
Q. How close do you feel you are to returning?
A. I feel like I'm in good shape. I'm doing more, increasing my workouts, starting to feel better. I feel like I'm coming around.
Q. What are you able to do now, and what activity is still restricted?
A. Right now I'm doing non-contact, lifting weights, running conditioning, working out with the coaches, individual work.
Q. Do you feel like you're on the verge of a return or, after all you've gone through, are you taking nothing for granted?
A. I feel like we've made so much improvement right now. I feel like I'm coming around, starting to be myself again. I think we'll just have to wait and see.
Q. I know I got some interesting e-mails from folks suggesting interesting remedies for your ailment. What was the strangest advice you received?
A. There was a lot. I've talked to a few people who've probably had something similar. But to be honest with you I tried to block everything out because I wasn't too concerned with everything. I trusted my doctors and who I went and saw and feel like we're on the right track and I feel like we've gained a lot of progress.
Q. Do you have a timeline – training camp, opening night, etc.?
A. I'm going to see my doctors later this week and we'll get an update and we'll go from there. I'm not going to say I'm not going to be out there and I'm not going to say I'm going to be out there right now.
Q. Considering how healthy you've been throughout your career, how difficult has this condition been to contend with?
A. This is an adjustment for me. I've never had an injury like this but I feel confident that I'll come through and be on the court again.
Q. The trade of Troy Murphy has created new opportunity at power forward. How do you approach that situation?
A. Murph was a good guy for me to kind of learn under and watch a lot but I feel like there is an opportunity there. Again, I feel like once I get back on the court we'll go from there. I'm not going to change my game up because somebody's gone. I'm just going to play the way I've always played.
Q. At any point in the long road back did you begin to wonder if you'd be able to return?
A. It was very frustrating but at not one point in my mind have I ever imagined not being back. I'm confident as ever I'll be back soon and we'll go from there.
Q. How have you been able to prepare your body for the upcoming season?
A. I feel like I'm in good shape. I've been working out in the weightroom, running, doing conditioning drills, running on the treadmill, going up and down the court, just non-contact. It's been pretty much everything except scrimmaging.
Q. Considering you are a player that thrives on contact, it must be tough to be in "non-contact" status.
A. Once I start taking contact, I'll feel very happy.
Q. You played just 29 games last season so in many ways this could be like a second rookie season for you. On the other hand, don't you feel much more prepared than a year ago?
A. I feel more prepared than I was last year just because I was able to sit back and watch and learn the system and adjust to the city. It won't just be like I'm a rookie again. Yeah, I'm going to have to learn a lot just like anybody else that's been out for awhile.
Q. I'm not sure what the best word is here. How anxious, eager, ready, hungry are you to get back out there?
A. I'll guarantee you there's no one as hungry as me to get back on the court. I've been out for awhile. It's what I love to do and I can't wait to get back out on the court.