Some Indiana Pacer fans may not be excited about the team selecting North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough with the No. 13 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, however, team president Larry Bird certainly is.
“Not everybody's going to be happy with who you take, but once they see him play, they'll be very surprised,” Bird told the Associated Press after some Pacer fans had mixed reactions to the pick at the team’s Draft Party. “(Tyler) fits in well with us, and he's going to have a great career.”
Bird felt that the Pacers needed to get tougher both physically and mentally entering the 2009-10 season and with this selection they unquestionably did. Hansbrough may not become an NBA All-Star, but he’ll die trying. While other players take nights off, Hansbrough will be diving for loose balls in exhibition games.
The experts have questioned Hansbrough’s athleticism and offensive skills, but no one questions this kid’s work ethic or toughness.
“My players are always going to be winners who play hard every night and do the work in the summer,” Bird said. “That's what I'm going to build with.”
The Indiana Pacers are still a team that can’t – or won’t, depending on your perspective – guard a lick. But the franchise is no longer an embarrassment to its dwindling fan base due to troubled players.
Following games, be it a win or a loss, Hansbrough won’t be out partying. That is a far different philosophy than some Pacers shared in year’s past. If the worst thing you can say about this team is that they can’t guard, then that’s infinitely better than a few years ago when fans read about the team in the police blotter with too much frequency.
Adding Hansbrough to its front court, coupled with the return of back court players Marquis Daniels and Mike Dunleavy, there is no reason (short of a suspension-inducing brawl in Detroit and/or injuries) Indiana shouldn’t challenge for a playoff spot next spring, and this squad has the talent to advance to the second round.
Last year’s No. 1 pick, Roy Hibbert, will start at center and Troy Murphy will start at the power forward slot. That leaves the 6-9 Hansbrough to back up Murphy and veteran Jeff Foster to replace Hibbert. Perhaps 6-10 Josh McRoberts will fit into the mix, but that remains to be seen.
The first four players in that rotation will all rebound with reckless abandon. However, with the exception of Foster, none are incredible defenders, but to be fair, Hibbert and Hansbrough have the ability to become good defenders in time.
Over the past couple of seasons, Bird has remade this roster with, perhaps not the most talented players, but at the very least, players that the fans could support with a clear conscience. Hansbrough fits that model. If you don’t realize how serious Bird is about changing the culture of this club, consider the fact that he’s paying Jamaal Tinsley $21,450,000 over the final three years of his contract (the deal expires following the 2010-11 season) not to play because of his propensity to find trouble with the law.
The Pacer fans that questioned the selection of Hansbrough Thursday won’t be questioning it for long. Hansbrough is a talented-enough guy that will have Conseco Fieldhouse exploding in cheers sooner than many think.
“Yep, that's the guy,” Bird said of which player he was eyeing the most. “We had some point guards we wanted, but we felt if Ty was there, we had to take him.”
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. E-mail Tom Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.