Though Tyler Hansbrough missed his fair share of games with injury or illness (pneumonia, in late January), most of his 2010-11 season spent under former Pacer coach Jim O'Brien was marked by inconsistent playing time. And, as a result, lots of frustration. And a clear lack of belief in the second-year big man, from the man they call "Obie."
Like, say, in the second week of December. Hansbrough put up 20 points and nine boards in a Pacers win over Denver, only to play just 18 combined minutes over the next three games, with the final notch in that trio of shame resulting in a Did Not Play-Coach's Decision. Scores of zeros under the minute ledger dot his game log under Obie, and despite Hansbrough's overactive defense at times, there was no real reason for a 25-year-old second-year forward to be treated like a flighty 19-year-old rookie.
So you can completely understand it when Hansbrough comes completely clean to RealGM.com's Andrew Perna, knocking out the difference between O'Brien and new coach Frank Vogel in the time it takes to shout "wow" at a smart-looking Acura.
When asked how it feels to be making his mark as of late, he said:
"It feels great, especially after so many people doubted me and I had a coach that didn't believe in me."
Harsh, Obie. Kind of makes Hansbrough's 8.9 minutes per game average in December look awfully mean.
Of course, it isn't as if belief alone has been a panacea for Tyler and his Pacers. O'Brien was let go on Jan. 30, and flush with belief Hansbrough shot just 39 percent while playing less than 24 minutes per game in February. The real turnaround didn't come until March hit, as the former North Carolina forward is averaging over 19 points and 7.5 rebounds in only 32 minutes a contest.
We can't see what goes on in Pacer practices, obviously, but even in short spurts earlier this season it appeared more than obvious (despite some rough outings) that Hansbrough was the type of player who could provide starter-quality production on both ends with extended minutes. And it should be noted that we didn't think nearly as much of this guy's game following his truncated rookie season.
Obviously a coach can't shoot his chances in the foot by force-feeding minutes consistently to a player that is still figuring it out, but we figured out James Posey a long time ago, and yet Obie kept going to him at big forward for long stretches. It made no sense.
The Pacers are a half-game up in the Eastern playoff bracket partially because of Hansbrough's ever-improving play. Way to cheer a guy up, Frank Vogel.