Hansbrough works hard in second NBA season

Monday, February 21, 2011
Miami Heat forward LeBron James shoots over Indiana Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough during Tuesday's game in Indianapolis. (Michael Conroy ~ Associated Press)

The former Poplar Bluff star tested his progress last week against the Heat

INDIANAPOLIS -- With Psycho T and the goon squad, the Indiana Pacers sound more appropriate for the NHL than the NBA.

Tyler Hansbrough, who earned the nickname Psycho T during his college days at the University of North Carolina, headlines the Indiana Pacers' second unit along with 2010 first-round draft choice Paul George.

"We call ourselves the goon squad because we're not the prettiest basketball players, not the smoothest basketball players," Hansbrough said last week, "but we try to get the dirty work done."

Hansbrough and his goon squad provided a spark Tuesday night in the Pacers' marquee game with the NBA Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat.

With the Big 3 of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh in town in front of a sellout crowd of 18,165, the Pacers lost 110-103.

They trailed at one point 41-19 before making a charge in the second quarter and eventually taking the lead in the second half.

Hansbrough, a Poplar Bluff, Mo., native who was drafted 13th overall in 2009, finished with 16 points, doubling his season average. He also had five rebounds. George, taken 10th overall last spring, had 14 points and five rebounds. He was 3 of 4 on 3-pointers. The Pacers' bench scored 53 points, but the Heat's Big 3 had 90, led by Wade's 41.

"It was like a playoff experience," George said. "And myself being a rookie who has never been through the playoffs, it felt nice to be in a surrounding like this.

"By far, this was one of the most energized crowds that we've had and atmosphere that we had. It was nice to see that a lot more Pacers fans showed up this time. Usually when we've got big names coming in, the opposing team is packing our house. So it was nice that our fans were packing our house this time."

Said Hansbrough: "When you play a team like that, everybody's going to come out of the woodwork and come out to the game. It's an exciting place to be, and unfortunately we didn't get the win."

Under a new coach

The Pacers had been winning since Jan. 30, when Jim O'Brien was relieved of his coaching duties and replaced by interim coach Frank Vogel.

The Pacers won seven of their first eight under Vogel, losing only at Miami, before a two-game losing streak to go into the All-Star break. They followed the loss to Miami at home with a loss to Detroit.

"Frank has come in here and given us a lot of confidence," Hansbrough said. "He's really helped everyone out. He's a much better communicator than previous years.

"Everyone likes Frank, and we want to play hard for him, and we don't want to disappoint him."

While Hansbrough is a second-year pro, this essentially is his rookie year due to inner ear problems that limited him to 29 games last year.

"I'm glad it's all behind me, and I'm just trying to learn as much as possible," Hansbrough said.

He is forming a bond with the rookie George.

"I'm looking for Tyler constantly," George said. "I know what he can do in the post with that sweet jump shot turnaround. I tell him all the time, 'If I can find you, I'll get you the ball.' I like to see him go to work."

Hansbrough likes to be back at work, showing the kind of work ethic that made him 2008 national player of the year and led the Tar Heels to the 2009 NCAA championship.

"I've improved my game a lot, definitely my outside jumper," Hansbrough said. "That's something I've had to develop because guys in the league are much bigger, and I can't just get to the basket and shoot over them all the time like I did in college. So it's a learning process, and I'm learning to grow as a player."

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