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Raptors Tyler Hansbrough: The Instant Warrior

Somewhat lost in the aftermath the game-changing Rudy Gay trade has been the Toronto Raptors Tyler Hansbrough.  The player President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri brought to Toronto this summer as a free agent to give Head Coach Dwane Casey some badly needed toughness has been hurt twice since the four Kings players arrived and the combination of Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes has pushed Hansbrough into the background.  However, now Hansbrough is back, healthy and ready to go.

“I am feeling good,” Hansbrough said.  “I am healthy, so that’s what counts.  I don’t think I ever got out of shape as much as I work out.  I have always been in game shape, so whenever I came back I always felt I was in good enough shape to play a large amount of minutes.”

While coaches often say they don’t like to see players lose minutes because of injuries, it isn’t easy for Casey to ignore the contributions of Patterson and Hayes in Hansbrough’s absence.  For the moment, Toronto has too many big men and not enough minutes to go around.  When he does get in the game, Hansbrough has to become an instant warrior off the bench and he is trying to embrace the role.

“Right now it is kind of what I have to do,” Hansbrough said.  “Obviously I am not playing larger minutes, so when I get on the court and opportunity presents itself, I just have to be ready to help the team.  That is the way I am looking at it, so when I go in that is what I am doing.”

Coach Casey still acknowledges his impact.

“He brings the physicality to the game that we need,” Casey said.

“I have never lost that (physicality),” Hansbrough said.  “That’s one thing I have always had.  Even if I am a little injured, I’ll always have a little fight like that.”

The hardest part for Hansbrough, even though he is not one to complain about it, is he was hoping for a bigger role in Toronto.

“That is why I wanted to come here so bad, to be a big piece of the puzzle and ultimately help us as a team work to a goal,” Hansbrough said during preseason. “I feel like I could be a big part here.”

In his last 6 games, Hansbrough has averaged 5 points and 3.2 rebounds in just 9 minutes of action.  He been very efficient, shooting 57.9 percent from the field and he is as effective and as annoying to play against as ever.  However, his role has diminished from earlier in the season and it’s become instant impact or no impact for the hard working power forward.  Maybe things will change by the trade deadline?



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.



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