Hansbrough spent his remaining minutes making it look just like Carolina.
He shot more free throws than anyone else, made the hustle plays that made him famous in college and helped the Indiana Pacers beat the Wizards 102-86 on Friday night. Hansbrough finished with 13 points in 14 minutes in his pro debut.
“It was a lot of hard work and things to get to this stage, but I put that all behind me when I got out there,” he said. “It felt great. Just a relief to get out there and kind of move forward from this injury thing.”
The first-round draft pick missed the preseason and the first four regular-season games with a right shin injury. When asked if he was surprised by his strong performance, a perplexed Hansbrough said “No,” then offered perspective.
“Just expecting the best and see what happens,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
“A little rusty in a lot of areas, but he’s going to be in the attack mode at the offense and defensive end, he’s going to go after every rebound,” O’Brien said. “I’m very pleased with him. I think he’s going to be a heck of an NBA player.”
Danny Granger(notes) scored 22 points and T.J. Ford(notes) added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, who raised a banner honoring late co-owner Mel Simon before the game. He died in September at age 82.
Caron Butler(notes) led the Wizards with 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Brendan Haywood(notes) had nine points and 19 rebounds. Gilbert Arenas(notes), who had averaged 28 points, finished with 13 and took only 10 shots, while Washington shot 39 percent and committed 19 turnovers.
“I’m very disappointed,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. “Our effort was poor. We turned the ball over way too much. I told the guys I’m going to have to take responsibility.”
“I felt like it was kind of a reality check sometimes,” he said.
Hansbrough scored his first bucket on a layup with 11:44 left in the second quarter.
The Pacers led 53-41 at halftime. Washington rallied in the early minutes of the third quarter, but back-to-back 3s by Granger and Earl Watson(notes) pushed Indiana’s lead to 64-51 and forced the Wizards to call timeout.
Washington trimmed the lead to 66-58 before the Pacers’ rookies entered the game and went to work. Hansbrough hit a layup and two free throws, and A.J. Price(notes) made back-to-back 3-pointers in a 10-0 run to stretch the lead to 76-58.
Hansbrough went 3 for 7 from the field and 7 for 10 from the foul line. He also had five rebounds and dove into the crowd once while chasing a loose ball.
“He brings that intensity, kind of that mad-dog intensity,” Granger said. “I like to refer to him as a pitbull on the loose. He’s just attacking all over the place, and that’s the mentality you need.”
It was a day filled with celebrations. Besides the rookie’s debut and the banner-raising ceremony, it was the 10th anniversary of the opening of Conseco Fieldhouse. Simon cut the ribbon to open the building with his brother Herb on Nov. 6, 1999.
Mel Simon joins former players Reggie Miller, Mel Daniels, Roger Brown and George McGinnis, and ex-coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard as the only people with their names in the rafters. The Simons bought the franchise in 1983 and, in one 11-year stretch, the Pacers reached the Eastern Conference finals six times and the NBA finals once.
Hansbrough is one of the core pieces the Pacers hope will get them back.
“He brings tremendous energy,” Granger said. “He’s going to play as hard as he can for as long as he can. He’s so physical. He’s one of those guys you definitely want on your team.”
NOTES: Arenas became the 294th player to score 10,000 points. … Indiana’s Mike Dunleavy (knee), Travis Diener(notes) (toe on left foot) and Jeff Foster(notes) (sore lower back) sat out along with Murphy. … The Pacers beat Boston 115-108 to open Conseco Fieldhouse. Miller scored 29 points that night. … Granger collected four steals in the first six minutes. … Rik Smits, who played on the Pacers’ 2000 Finals team, attended the game. … Indiana G Brandon Rush(notes) sprained his right ankle and did not return.