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NBA D-League Mad Ants Tyler Hansbrough

Mad Ants Tyler Hansbrough Should Be On NBA Teams Radar

By Frank McLean

The beautiful thing about the NBA Development League “NBDL” is that when you go to a game you never know who you are going to see. There are numerous players who are or who should be on many NBA teams radar.

Maybe it’s a first round pick from the NBA draft playing in the D-League to get the unlimited minutes not available with his NBA team so he can develop and make a contribution to the parent team. Or someone who excelled in the NCAA, but may not be good enough for the NBA like one-time NCAA player of the year Jimmer Ferdette.

One current under-employed NBA veteran trying to use the NBDL to get back to the big show is former Toronto Raptors forward Tyler Hansbrough.

After spending four years with Indiana Pacers where he was their first round pick in the 2009-draft, Hansbrough signed a two year free agent deal with the Raptors and when that expired, he signed a one year deal with the Charlotte Hornets for the 2015-16 season where his career came off the rails.

In Charlotte he had the worst season of the NBA career. He played in only 44-games where he averaged 2.4-points and 2-rebounds in just 7.8 minutes.

On March first, after no NBA team taking a chance on him during the offseason and sitting out the whole season, he signed a deal with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBDL which happens to be owned by the team that drafted him the Indiana Pacers.

He has been a factor. In two games down the stretch run of the regular season he had games of 25 and 31 points. He also had a 23 rebound game and that’s where he was always excelled, a ferocious rebounder and a deadly shooter in the paint. He is averaging a double-double in Fort Wayne.

Currently the Mad Ants are in the NBDL Eastern Conference semi-final against the Main Red Claws with the winner of the best of three series taking on the Raptors 905 in the Eastern Conference Final.

On Monday night with his team facing elimination Hansbrough carried the Mad Ants in a comeback win to tie the series at one apiece and forcing a deciding game three on Wednesday night in Portland, Maine. Hansbrough put up 27-points and grabbed 15-boards in the game.

Pacers President Larry Bird has been in attendance for some games keeping an eye on who Pacers fans called “Psycho T.” A guy who’s defensive toughness, rebounding and scoring in the paint gave the Mad Ants a boost in their bid for the NBDL title.

Hansbrough, like any veteran who comes to the D-League, is there for one purpose and that’s to get back to the NBA. No one gave Hansbrough a 10-day contract which is a surprise when you see teams in the NBA who can use his skill set like maybe Cleveland? Just saying.

He was one of the all-time greats at the University of North Carolina, right up there with other alumni like Michael Jordan, Vince Carter and current Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse. His number 50 was retired after being named on the ACC’s first all-star in each of his four years there plus being the rookie of the year in 2006 and in 2008 was the ACC’s player of the year as well as all the other national player of the year honors.

Here’s hoping the Mad Ants win their series and the local Toronto fans get a chance to see Hansbrough comeback to the GTA to take on the Raptors 905.

He is the reason why the NBDL was formed in the first place, to give young NBA draft picks a chance to work on their craft and veterans a place to audition their talents.

Something says Hansbrough won’t be in the NBDL long.

 

 

 

   DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

  

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo

Hansbrough For Biyombo Working Out Well For Raptors

By Frank McLean

When you are a general manager of a NBA team, and for that matter you are a general manager of any professional sports team, every morning when you wake up the first thing that comes to your mind is how do I make my team better than it was yesterday?

When Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri was rebuilding his team over the off season that was the question he was asking.

Everybody loved Amir Johnson in the Raptors organization, but the opportunity to acquire free agent DeMarre Carroll made the team better based on age, health and skill-set. (Although, after Carroll underwent knee surgery, maybe not?)

Ujiri, when trying to upgrade his bench, had to make that same decision on Tyler Hansbrough.

NBA Toronto Raptors Tyler Hansbrough

Hansbrough’s job with the Raptors was like that of a fourth line player in the NHL. His job was to provide energy coming off the bench and if he scores great, but if he doesn’t, his job is to rough it up a bit around the net and change the pace of the game. He was expected to throw his weight around under the basket and collect a few rebounds.

However, instead of re-signing Hansbrough, Ujiri picked up free agent Bismack Biyombo who had been plying his trade with the Charlotte Hornets.

Like Johnson, everybody in the organization loved Hansbrough as a teammate and as a player. But Ujiri signed Biyombo because he felt it made his team better and at the end of the day that is what a general manager’s job description is.

The two teams hooked up last Friday night in Toronto and I had a chance to visit with Hansbrough after the game and I asked him if the Raptors had made a contract offer during the off season.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I left that to my agent. I would not have said no to coming back, I really love Toronto. But Charlotte made an offer and I had a chance to play at home and that’s something I had always wanted to do.”

Hansbrough played his college ball not far away from Charlotte in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, so North Carolina is not a strange place for him.

In the case of Biyombo many pundits questioned why the Hornets let him go from their roster. They did not make a qualifying offer to him which allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.

The word was he had fallen out of favor with Hornets head coach Steve Clifford. But having a chance to talk to Clifford, he had nothing but praise for the big man from the Congo.

“When he was younger like anybody else, he obviously wanted more. He’s an easy guy to cheer for, he’s a worker, he’s got great character and he cares about his teammates.”

The 23-year old had a monster month of December after taking over as starting center while Jonas Valanciunas recovered from a broken hand. Biyombo averaged 7.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Included was game at home against the Dallas Mavericks where he set a career high with 20 rebounds.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has nothing but praise for Biyombo.

“I think he had a big role once JV went down. He had an opportunity to get his confidence. I think the game is slowing down for him a little bit now. He’s catching the ball better. He’s finishing better in traffic. I think that just comes from opportunity.

“I think he understands now too who he is and what he is,” Casey added. “He’s a rebounder and a defender. He doesn’t have to worry about scoring. He’s an opportunity scorer.”

Many times in scrums with the media Casey has compared Biyombo to Dennis Rodman. And when you take away the eccentric personality and the wild wardrobe, Rodman was a productive part of championship teams in Detroit and Chicago. If the Raptors had that type of a player coming off the bench during the playoffs last spring, they probably would not have lost four straight to the Wizards. In fact I can safely say they would not have lost four straight.

So even though it wasn’t an actual trade, it worked out to be a swap of Hansbrough for Biyombo and both teams are happy with their new player and what they have brought to their new clubs. And in the case of Masai Ujiri, you can’t argue that he did not make his team better.

 

 

 

Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

Tyler Hansbrough 2

Tyler Hansbrough Returns To North Carolina

In the revamp of the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets this summer, the Hornets free agent center Bismack Biyombo headed north to Toronto to build on his young career and the Raptors free agent power forward Tyler Hansbrough returns to North Carolina after six NBA seasons where he remains a local college basketball hero.

To describe Hansbrough’s collegiate tenure with the Tar Heels as overwhelming would be understating his impact. North Carolina retired his number 50 after he left. He is the only player in ACC history to lead his school in scoring and rebounding for four seasons.

 


The 2006 ACC Freshman of the Year went on to receive First Team All-America and First Team All-ACC honors in each of his four seasons with the Tar Heels. In 2008, Hansbrough swept the six national player of the year awards: the Associated Press, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, Sporting News, the Naismith Award and the Wooden Award.

Hansbrough’s player bio at UNC reads like a team record book.

The two teams couldn’t have obtained the players any better than if they had traded for them. The veteran Hansbrough brings needed energy, toughness and experience to the Hornets as well as a beloved local hero who should help sell tickets in a strong college basketball market.

Biymobo brings shot blocking and rebounding to a Raptors team badly in need of rim protection and a means to finish off their usual outstanding defensive sequences without giving up so many second chance points.

The Raptors originally signed Hansbrough as a free agent two years ago, but as the team evolved from lottery fodder to Atlantic Division winners, Hansbrough moved down the depth chart at power forward and ended up playing mostly out of position at center. Remarkably, Hansbrough remained fairly effective as an undersized center at both ends of the court, but the Raptors needed a true backup center who could protect the rim and Hansbrough became the odd man out.

Charlotte went through their own soul-searching this summer and decided they had enough defense and needed to add some pop to their offense. They rescinded Biyombo’s qualifying offer and the Raptors jumped at the opportunity to get the player they felt filled a hole on their team.

Hansbrough often spoke about how much he enjoyed his collegiate career at North Carolina while he was in Toronto. This should be a very good move for both parties.

 

 

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.

 

 

Hansbrough interview webRaptors Tyler Hansbrough Loved His Time at North Carolina
“I stayed at UNC year round and I loved it,” Hansbrough said. “Obviously it’s college life. I am not in a room thinking basketball 24/7, I lived the college dream. I did everything.”

 

 

 

Chuck Hayes by Paul Saini cropped (Fylmm

Toronto Raptors Must Find ‘The Will To Win’ In Washington

Throw out all the excuses, the injuries, the poor shooting, the suspect defense, if the Toronto Raptors really want to escape the first round of the playoffs they must find the will to win.

“It’s the will to win,” veteran Raptors center Chuck Hayes said. “That’s all it is. It’s the will to win.”

The Raptors and the Wizards are relatively evenly matched teams, so home court should have made a difference, but one team showed up ready to play and one team looked like they hadn’t been in the playoffs before. It’s not an insurmountably deep hole, but few teams recover from a 0-2 deficit.

“We put ourselves in a deep hole and it’s going to take a 100 times more effort than we’ve ever seen before to get out of it,” Hayes said. “(The Wizards) want to win every game and we have to match their intensity – match their mindset in how they play.”

It really could be as simple as showing up ready to play the entire game. The Raptors have won the first and fourth quarters in each of the first two games handily while suffering a near collapse through the middle 24 minutes.

“We got to show up and play,” Hansbrough said. “Everybody knows that. Anything can happen, we got to show up and be ready to play.”

Hansbrough has started both playoff games and is the only Raptor with a positive plus/minus stat. He’s been ready play.

Toronto should be heading to Washington with some measure of confidence. They are 3-0 versus the Wizards on the road over the past two seasons. However, there remain concerns. Is everyone Head Coach Dwane Casey relies upon ready to win at this level? Do they have the will to win?

The Raptors have had trouble beating anyone without Kyle Lowry playing at a high level and his 5-20 shooting over the first two games strongly indicates he’s not back to 100 percent since returning from his back injury. However, a closer look suggests Lowry hasn’t been the problem. His plus/minus so far has been zero. Not exactly a number he’d be happy with, but not exactly dragging his team down either.

The standouts on the court for the wrong reasons and in the often disputed plus/minus category have been Terrence Ross and Amir Johnson, both chalking up -9.5 points per game and both being critical to the Raptors success or lack thereof.

Johnson looks like a shell of his usual self. The 14 points and 6.5 rebounds are only disguising just how ineffective he’s been playing out there on what appears to be a pair of very wonky ankles – Johnson falling for no apparent reason on defense has become an all too common occurrence. The Raptors need a quick and miraculous recovery from the usually reliable Johnson.

Ross can be either hot or cold from the field and when he’s hot his 3-ball helps hide his inability to defend his opponent if the Wizards run any kind of play designed to create an open shot. More was expected from Ross in his second trip to the post season, but he still looks tentative on offense and lost on defense. If he isn’t hitting the corner three, Casey can’t afford to have him on the court. A very quick hook is in order.

The other player who needs to find his game and quickly is Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez can be huge in big moments and he isn’t afraid to take the big shot or drive into traffic, but he’s got to find his game a lot earlier. Waiting until the fourth quarter to become effective isn’t going to cut it if the second unit is going to fold like a cheap suit in the second quarter. It might not be fair to hang the responsibility for poor second quarters on Vasquez, but he is the player who is going to have to put it his shoulders to turn things around and he has shown the ability to do it before.

Down 0-2 will take more than just a step up by those players that have underperformed the most, as Hayes said, ‘it’s going to take a 100 times more effort’ to win now.

“Just take it one game at a time,” Patterson said. “We understand that the series is not over. None of us want to go home. None of us are ready to go home and start packing to enjoy the off season. We want to continue to play basketball.”

If the Raptors really don’t want to go home after this weekend, their fate is in their own hands. All they need to do is find the ‘will to win’ and they can take one or both of the games in Washington. However, the will to win is something young teams often can’t seem to find after they get their heads handed to them. As Head coach Randy Wittman said to his players after game two, ‘we haven’t done anything yet.’ With two evenly matched opponents, the team that finds will to win is moving on.

 

 

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.

 photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Tyler Hansbrough

Tyler Hansbrough Starts Again For The Raptors

Head coach Dwane Casey is sticking with what has been working for the Toronto Raptors at the start of games and has Tyler Hansbrough back in the starting unit versus Washington in game two at the Air Canada Centre.

“Tyler’s energy whenever he comes into the game is huge,” Casey said pregame. “I think that’s what I alluded to when I said our starts were good in all the games he has started – we’ve had tremendous starts, good starts. The key now is sustaining that for 48 minutes. Again, the starts weren’t our issue.”

Hansbrough was the only Raptors starter who came into game one at full speed from the tip. He earned the right to start again in game two.

 

photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com

Can Tyler Hansbrough Provide the Defense And Rebounding The Raptors Need?

Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough

Can Tyler Hansbrough Provide the Defense And Rebounding The Raptors Need?

There is no one on the Toronto Raptors with more postseason experience than Tyler Hansbrough, the former Pacers big man has been in 38 postseason games. Hansbrough has been the Raptors energizer and when Amir Johnson was injured, he earned a spot in the starting lineup by being his team’s hardest worker on the floor. Against a bigger Washington Wizards frontcourt and one the NBA’s fastest guards, the Raptors will need Hansbrough’s defense and rebounding during this first round playoff series.

Hansbrough was listed as a probable starter in the team’s ‘Game Notes’ bringing out the annual query about about his game. Does Hansbrough have another gear to bring to the playoffs?

“I always play the game the same way,” Hansbrough said right before the game.  “If there is another gear, we’ll find out. I guess for me it’s more mental preparation, trying to know the (opposition) a lot better. I go out there and play the way I play and I can tell sometimes guys play different, it’s chippy and things like that, (but) nothing changes for me.”

On a  team that loves the three-ball, Hansbrough makes his living in the paint playing a rough and tumble physical style. ‘Psycho T’ was the nickname he earned in college and he can be just as a disruptive force now, drawing fouls and playing tough defense. However, against the Wizards, it’s defense that he’ll be focused on.

“For me personally it’s going to be defense and rebounding,” Hansbrough said. “If I can do that, especially with Wall coming down, we got to be able to stop him in transition and that’s going to be big. A point guard alone can’t do that. It’s a team effort to do that. For me, if I can do that and rebound, I can help this team.”

Hansbrough has earned his start in the postseason. Just how big a role Hansbrough will have likely depends on how well guys like Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson play, but the Raptors are lucky to have him. Hansbrough is a luxury Toronto is likely to need to escape the first round of the playoffs.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Tyler Hansbrough

Raptors Need Tyler Hansbrough’s Toughness Once Again

Tyler Hansbrough was one of President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri’s first acquisitions almost two years ago as he needed to infuse some badly needed toughness into a very soft Toronto Raptors roster. It confirmed Ujiri’s assertion that it was his job as general manager to get players that fit the style his head coach wanted to play and Dwane Casey was more than excited to get him.

Unfortunately for Hansbrough he was one of ‘losers’ after last season’s big trade with Sacramento as the Raptors bench got significantly deeper and more talented. However, Casey never completely took him out of the rotation and with Toronto looking like a team playing for nothing over the past month and a half, it’s been Hansbrough who has stepped up to provide some toughness, energy and effort as the team prepares for the postseason.

“Tyler is our energizing bunny,” Casey said. “He comes in there and does a lot that stuff, rebounding, setting screens, running the floor, getting contact in the paint. He does a lot of that for us.”

Far too often since the All-Star break the Raptors level of intensity and effort hasn’t stepped up until Hansbrough was subbed in at center. The pairing of Patrick Patterson with Hansbrough off the bench has provided the Raptors with the combination of an inside banger and an outside threat that can and has brought the entire team back to life after some all too familiar slow starts.

“We are both energetic out there,” Patterson explained. “A lot of energy, communication and it just seems like we have a good vibe. We are a good tandem out there. We are pretty much the same person on the defensive end. Just talking and trying to get to certain situations as quick as possible.”

Where Patterson has been showcasing his ability to chase opponents out to the three-point line and disrupt offensive schemes, Hansbrough has made great strides at this as well this season, but where Patterson’s jump shot oriented offense rarely gets his man in foul trouble, Hansbrough is like a magnet for drawing contact and getting to the charity stripe.

“(Drawing fouls) is Tyler’s M.O.,” Patterson said. “That’s what he’s always done. That’s what he’s done since he was here. He was always known for his defense, always known for his intensity, his toughness and his physicality out there on the court, frustrating his opponent.”

The most impressive part of Hansbrough’s game this season is where he has been making his impact. A power forward since college, Casey has only been able to find consistent minutes for the 6’9 Hansbrough at center and that would be a tough transition for any player to make, but he has embraced that role and more often than not, been effective. Hansbrough just wants to contribute any way that he can.

“(Playing center) is all about matchups and Tyler is just a physical specimen,” Patterson said. “I always take my hat off to him when I see him out there on the court guarding guys 7’ 280 lbs and he holds his own every single time out there. It is extremely tough to guard out of your position, but Tyler seems to do it well.

“You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t have effort, you don’t have anything. Tyler, it’s all about effort, it’s all about energy with him. Game in and game out, he is always going to give it his all.”

The Raptors may have caught a break when starter Amir Johnson tweaked an ankle that pushed Casey into inserting Hansbrough into the starting lineup on the weekend. The ‘Energizing Bunny’ had an immediate impact scoring points, drawing fouls, running the court and playing solid defense, but the true measure could be found in how hard he played and how badly his team missed him when he came off the floor.

With only a week left in the regular season, the Raptors need to find the intensity Hansbrough brings to the court every night. His toughness and effort provides the example his more talented teammates need to mimic if Toronto is to enjoy the postseason run this team is capable of.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Hansbrough interview webRaptors Have To Build A Tyler Hansbrough Like Intensity

“At this point (the number of games left) doesn’t matter,” Hansbrough said. “It’s what we got to do if we want to be the team we want to be, so we should focus on that these next games and try to bring that intensity and prepare for the playoffs.”

 

 

Patterson close-upAn Analytical Patrick Patterson Breaks Out With Raptors

“I want to always be a shooter,” Patterson said. “At the end of the day, shooting is what I want to be known for, but with my development, teams are starting to run me off the line, so I have to work on an in-between game, work on my ability to put the ball on the floor, work on my handles and work on my judgment, my passing skills. There is still so much more I need to improve on, but as far as being a shooter, that is what I want to be known for.”

 

 

TOR Hansbrough 2013 gym

Raptors Have To Build A Tyler Hansbrough Like Intensity

It should be painfully obvious to observers of the Toronto Raptors that Tyler Hansbrough has been ramping up his own very high level of intensity over the past month well ahead of the schedule of some of his teammates. Hansbrough knows what’s coming. He has played this role before with the Indiana Pacers and under similar circumstances.

Hansbrough knows that facing some unexpected loses and losing focus in March isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as the Raptors take advantage of their remaining games to set things right.
 
“This team is still pretty young considering playoff experience, so for us losing isn’t always a bad thing,” Hansbrough said. “It makes you refocus and concentrate on things you need to work on. It’s better to lose now and realize we have some holes we need to fix versus getting to the playoffs and realizing this is what we need to improve on. So that’s one way to look at it, but as a team, you want to catch your stride before going into the playoffs. Defensively we all have to be tied in with our rotations, know where to be and everybody has to be talking and locked in so when playoff time comes it’s just a natural movement and natural talking.”

The undertones of Head coach Dwane Casey’s repeated messages – virtually identical to what Frank Vogel was preaching in Indiana – can be heard loud and clear in Hansbrough’s thoughts. The Raptors need to get locked in on their defensive rotations before the playoffs start. Fortunately there are signs in recent games that this process is finally underway.

“You can ask anybody that’s been in the playoffs, there’s a big difference between a regular season game versus playoffs,” Hansbrough said. “That is true (about) the way teams play, their intensity, how they do things. I am just trying to get in that mode (now) to prepare myself because when it comes you can’t just – it’s not like – playoffs come, now I’m going to play like this. It’s not going to happen. That starts now.

“It’s hard (to turn the switch). It’s not like one day you just wake up and (say) this is what we are going to do. It takes time to develop. You can’t expect to just sit here and (say) now it’s playoffs, now let’s play. You got to bring that intensity every night and that is what we are building towards, working towards.”

The test against the Rockets at home recently showed the Raptors are starting to find that intensity as they held their high scoring opposition to under 100 points and just 41.7 percent shooting from the field. That is the intensity they need to find through their final remaining regular season games and the schedule maker may have done the Raptors a huge favor towards accomplishing that.

In six of Toronto’s final seven regular season games they will be facing four teams (deservedly) well under .500, but fighting hard to win one of the last two remaining playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. In a nearly ideal practice/preparation situation, the Raptors will be playing teams coming out with intensity. Obviously the Nets, Celtics, Heat and Hornets don’t have the talent of Toronto, but they have a lot more to play for and they will help Toronto gear up for what’s coming.

“At this point (the number of games left) doesn’t matter,” Hansbrough said. “It’s what we got to do if we want to be the team we want to be, so we should focus on that these next games and try to bring that intensity and prepare for the playoffs.

“I think you are going to see (that intensity). Nobody is content with what we’ve been doing. After every game the talk is about what can we do to get better and how we can get back on the right page. So I think we are going to turn it around and you are going to see it.”

The Raptors have won three games in a row while holding their opponents to under 100 points and as much as any test Casey could devise, keeping their remaining opponents held to that standard is as good a measure as any available for the Raptors prior to the start of the post season.

The playoffs are all about intensity and the Raptors couldn’t have requested a better slate of games to finish off the season to help them ramp up to what’s needed.

 

 
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.

 

 

Tyler Hansbrough warmup line by Paul Saini FYLMM

Tyler Hansbrough Loves Playing With The Raptors

Tyler Hansbrough has made no secret of the fact he loves playing in Toronto. He loves the city, the organization and perhaps even more importantly, he loves the Raptors locker room and his teammates.

“I love this team. I love my teammates,” Hansbrough said. “That’s what makes this position for me so comfortable. If I didn’t like the locker room it would be different, but I like where we are – winning ball games. I think we can make a run, so I am happy with this role.”

When Hansbrough signed with the Raptors as a free agent a couple of summers ago he was looking for a bigger role. It was there to be had to, at least until the trade with Sacramento brought in four bench players and everything changed. Almost immediately Hansbrough found himself either competing with Patrick Patterson for minutes or playing beside Patterson as an undersized center, and playing center was never something Hansbrough envisioned before coming to Toronto.

“I definitely embrace both (now),” Hansbrough said. “I always thought I was a power forward that had low post moves when I first got here, but with this team, (playing center) is my part, it’s what they want me to do to help win and so, that is what I am going to do.”

At 6’9, Hansbrough had a lot to figure out to be effective at the center spot and his game has changed since he first arrived in Toronto. Less “Psycho T” – a nickname Hansbrough really doesn’t like – and more thoughtful and controlled energy guy.

“There are a couple of things that go into it,” Hansbrough said. “You have to study what they do best and try to take that away. You have to figure out what you can do – quickness, make them run the floor. The toughest thing is just being able to box them out.”

It has helped that the league has fewer true 7’ physical centers and Hansbrough can play against similarly sized players in the post at least some of the time.

“It helps me that teams are going smaller, but I would still say that if there is a good big man out there that has some post moves most teams are going to want that,” Hansbrough said. “With teams going smaller, the league going smaller, it has its advantages and it’s not every night that a team has a Roy Hibbert (center) in size.”

However, he still has to deal with some of the biggest players in the Association on a regular basis and Hansbrough has been getting noticeably better at it in limited minutes.

“The main thing for me is just boxing them out and not giving up offensive rebounds because I lack height against most centers,” Hansbrough explained. “The main key for me is just trying to get them off their sweet spot and push them out. Also use my quickness to get around them and prevent them from getting the ball is the best thing I can do defensively, but offensively I think there are some advantages as far as stepping out and making them guard the pick-and-rolls more.”

Hansbrough isn’t guy that has to be prompted to get a positive response about Toronto, the Raptors or his teammates. His love for his situation is as genuine as his effort on the court and it matters too. This energy guy has been put in a situation that he didn’t expect and would not have chosen if he knew what his role was about to become ahead of time. There’s a lot to be said for a solid locker room, team chemistry and working with or playing with guys you like.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Tyler Hansbrough Media DayRaptors Tyler Hansbrough Is Doing More With Less

The Raptors Tyler Hansbrough has carved himself out a role in Toronto and it wasn’t the role he anticipated when he signed with the team last year. “I just want to be on the court first of all, but it is a new role this year and last year playing against centers,” Hansbrough said. “I have always been considered a power forward.”

 

 

Tyler Hansbrough 1

Raptors Tyler Hansbrough Is Doing More With Less

The Raptors Tyler Hansbrough has carved himself out a role in Toronto and it wasn’t the role he anticipated when he signed with the team last year. Hansbrough is doing more with less as the 29-year-old rounds into a veteran big man who understands his own game and how he can best contribute to a winning team.

 

 

“Just being in the right position and playing my role on this team is what they need,” Hansbrough said. “A big key for me this year is just knowing where to be and knowing when to screen and when to drag and the offense seems to flow a lot better this year for me.”

Always known as a high energy guy, Hansbrough is starting to figure out how to slow the game down and play at more than one speed. It’s an issue usually associated with young guards and wings, but Hansbrough can be a more effective big man by picking his spots better and he has shown that early on this season.

“Last year at times I would get caught up and sometimes there is a fine line between being an energy guy and overdoing it,” Hansbrough said. “Coming off the bench and picking up fouls and stuff is something I am trying to control and work at and improve at.”

It’s important for the Raptors that Hansbrough can stay on the court when needed. He has the backup center role in the rotation and he can be an effective interior scorer by drawing fouls with his energy around the basket if he can stay on the court.

“I just want to be on the court first of all, but it is a new role this year and last year playing against centers,” Hansbrough said. “I have always been considered a power forward. It is a different matchup, but I feel comfortable right now playing it.

“You have to do something to make up for your lack of height. Obviously Chuck (Hayes) is a lot bigger (heavier/stronger) than me, but you can do a lot. Run up and down the floor more. Run out on screens and use your speed to your advantage.”
 

With so many teams playing with stretch fives and some version of small ball, having a mobile center available to come off the bench that can run out to guard the three-point line and punish less physical centers in the post is almost a necessity. Hansbrough’s role on the Raptors isn’t what he expected, but it might be one that he is better suited to.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

James Johnson scrumWhy Raptors James Johnson Isn’t The Same Guy This Year

“I am definitely not (the same guy),” Johnson said. “Going down to the D-League, developing different skills and developing my confidence and my all-around game really helped me out and knowing that you can’t take this league for granted because you can be out of it at any minute.”

 

 

New Orleans Pelicans Media DayStiemsma Rocks The Thunder In Raptors Debut

“I knew the situation coming in that minutes were going to be here and there, hit and miss, kind of matchup-wise and seeing a couple of guys go down, I kind of had a feeling that tonight might be the night I had a debut,” Stiemsma said.

 

 

 

TOR James Johnson Vasquez and Williams

Is The Raptors Rotation Already Set For The Season?

With less than two weeks left before the start of the 2014-1015 NBA regular season, the Toronto Raptors rotation appears set. Any tweaks Head Coach Dwane Casey might make to what should be a 9 or 10 man group of regulars is down to some very fine distinctions.

Depth Chart

Point Guard: Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan, Lou Williams

Small Forward: Terrence Ross, James Johnson, Landry Fields, Bruno Caboclo

Power Forward: Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough

Center: Jonas Valanciunas, Chuck Hayes, Lucas Nogueira

Training camp tryouts: guard Will Cherry, forward Jordan Hamilton and center Greg Stiemsma

Last year’s franchise record setting starting lineup is back and unless someone gets hurt, they’ll be the starters for every game this season. Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Amir Johnson and Valanciunas led the Raptors to the best record in the entire Eastern Conference (41-22) after the seven-player trade with Sacramento in December and their 29 wins as a starting unit was a franchise record for a single season. There are no decisions to be made here.

The backup spots are a little less clear, but only slightly. There are players who can win jobs and minutes, however, it’s unlikely Casey is going to change his rotation based on preseason games alone.

Backup Guards

The battle for the backup guard spots was over before it began. Cherry has a camp invite, but even if he sticks, it will be as a 15th man. Vasquez was re-signed to a $13 million 2-year deal to back up Lowry and the 9-year veteran Williams was specifically acquired to bring some scoring off the bench. Both Williams and Vasquez are used to playing well over 20 minutes per game and their impact on the court suggests they should play more, but Lowry and DeRozan are both big minute players and unless Casey gets creative with some three guard lineups, the backup minutes at guard will be low and inconsistent.

Fortunately for Vasquez and Williams, Casey had a lot of success with two point guard lineups last season and more of the same should be expected. Plus at 6’6 Vasquez can guard a lot of the wings in this league, so Casey has options, but perhaps the biggest benefit of all this depth will be to cruise through injury situations and to keep his starters minutes more manageable.

If the backup guards prove to be as effective as expected, the big loser in terms of minutes is likely to be James Johnson.

Backup Wings

After getting beaten up by Joe Johnson in the playoffs, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri would look to add a big mobile athletic forward that can cover a power small forward. James Johnson is just such a player. This is his second tour with the Raptors and the 27-year-old shows the signs of maturity that come from bouncing around the league and losing one’s spot in the rotation after periods of being pretty effective. The small forward backup role is Johnson’s to lose and he can earn himself more minutes at power forward in small lineups with responsible defense.

Fields can cover both wing spots and is a responsible defender, but his shooting touch has been lost to a nerve issue in his shooting arm that just will not go away. He remains a nice depth player because of his basketball I.Q. and willingness to defer on offense, but unless he can re-invent his game, he’ll be a 12th man on the Raptors.

Caboclo just turned 19-years-old and it will be the franchise’s story of the season if he can crack the rotation on merit, but no one is selling that possibility too hard just yet. Elastic-man long arms and a decent three-point touch suggest the potential is there to surprise, but on a veteran team, Caboclo is expected to play more in the D-League than the NBA this year. However, don’t sleep on the rookie either – pay attention to what he does with any opportunities.

The surprise coming out of camp could be Jordan Hamilton. Because of the Raptors depth at this position, the training camp invite was given no chance at a job before preseason began, but since then, Hamilton has been showing that maybe he deserves to stick anyway. The kid can score and hasn’t looked out-of-place – for a guy striving to grab the 15th spot on the roster.

Backup Big Men

Patrick Patterson re-signed for 3-years and $18 million this summer and will be the first big off the bench. The 25-year-old looks and acts like he’s closer to 30 and he thrived in the role Casey gave him last season. A stretch-four than can guard in the post as well as on the perimeter, Patterson believes he could steal the starting job and that isn’t an unreasonable goal – really tough to accomplish, but reasonable.

Casey could easily decide to run with just three big men in a 9-man rotation and no one could seriously argue with him. Amir Johnson is this team’s next best center, however, Toronto has a wealth of big men, so Casey has some very solid options.

Last season Patterson and Hansbrough played well together even if it left the center position a little undersized. There are few players that are more active in the paint and willing to fight for position than what Hansbrough brings every night. Fortunately, there are also few teams that can put a decent 7-footer on the floor as a backup center, so the 6’9 Hansbrough is not at as big a disadvantage guarding the basket as he would be in the starting unit.

Hansbrough has some serious competition, however. The veteran Chuck Hayes is at an even bigger height disadvantage than Hansbrough, but he is smart, quick and able to show and recover better than most big men. At 6’6, Hayes does not provide any rim protection or much of an offensive threat, but he comes well prepared and will outwork almost anyone.

The rookie Bebe Nogueira has that long lanky look of many centers in today’s NBA. Fast with quick ups and the ability to become a true rim protector on defense and a rim rocker at the other end – that is if he can figure out the NBA game after a couple of years as a reserve in Spain. Currently sidelined with a groin strain, the Raptors are still waiting to find out what this kid can do. If he can play effective defense, he can win the backup center job – hands down, but that’s a big if.

Stiemsma has played for three NBA teams in three years and proven he can play defense at this level – offense, not so much. He has the potential to fill the role Aaron Gray once held on the Raptors as a spot duty center that can block shots, play defense and foul hard when the team is getting beat up in the paint. Except for the rim protection, Hayes fills much the same role, but the attraction of Stiemsma as a third string center is real.

Raptors Rotation

Starters: Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Amir Johnson, Valanciunas

Second Unit: Vasquez, Williams, James Johnson, Patterson, Hansbrough

The starters are set, the second unit is ready to go and there is enough depth to cover injuries. Plus there are just enough question marks to create a little intrigue over battles for minutes and the impact the two rookies could have during the season.

Based on how Ujiri likes to develop young players, both Caboclo and Nogueira will get a fair shake to earn a spot in the rotation at some point during the season. The question then becomes, will either of them be ready and what does Ujiri do about it if they are?

 

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.

 

 

TOR DeRozan Ross ValanciunasToronto Raptors Roster Has The Depth For Success In 2014-15

During the Toronto Raptors five years in the NBA Draft Lottery, the team was exposed over and over again as susceptible to collapse with just one key injury. A lack of depth was a consistent problem that paralleled the lack of talent.

 

 
James Johnson closeupCan Raptors James Johnson Accept His Role In Toronto?

James Johnson has taken his turn at the school of hard knocks over the past couple of seasons. “Memphis gave me some time to reflect on who I really was,” Johnson said.

 

 

Tyler Hansbrough Media Day

Tyler Hansbrough Brings More Than Toughness To The Raptors

The Toronto Raptors power forward Tyler Hansbrough only had a partially guaranteed deal coming into this season, but there was little doubt in his mind or anyone else who had watched the Head Coach Dwane Casey favorite that he’d be back. Hansbrough was brought in for his toughness and that remains a highly valued skill in Toronto. The organization still believes he can help the Raptors win and as he showed with that corner three-ball against the Kings in Vancouver, Hansbrough might bring something a little extra this season.

 

 

“(Surprised?) no not really,” Hansbrough said about his return. “I thought I could do some things to help, so I wasn’t shocked.”

Hansbrough played four years in Indiana before signing with Toronto last season and one of his personal reasons for coming was to find a bigger role. President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri made a big deal of his signing and Casey made no effort to hide how much he appreciated the badly needed infusion of toughness, but Hansbrough’s bigger role was lost when Patrick Patterson won the power forward backup role in December and Casey started to look to the veteran Chuck Hayes as a backup at center.

“Everybody has their own goals and what they want to accomplish, but anytime the team is winning and playing good that overrides what you want to do individually,” Hansbrough said. “Obviously I came here because I wanted a bigger part – play a bigger role – and as the season panned out it didn’t happen, but I know what I can do and I know how important I am, so whatever I got to do to be on the court and help the team win I am willing to do.”

Untimely injuries gave Patterson and Hayes time to solidify their spots in Casey’s rotation at Hansbrough’s expense, but the big man stayed ready and made a significant contribution throughout the second half. Plus some early chemistry between Patterson and Hansbrough is suggestive of something Casey may try to revive this season. Hansbrough will be ready when called upon.

“I am a professional, I’ve been doing this for a while,” Hansbrough said. “So when I am not playing, I am in the gym working on my game. When I do get time, I take advantage of it and make the most of it. As a professional you have to understand that the season is going to have its ups and downs – being ready and when your opportunity comes making the most of it.”

Hansbrough stayed ready during the season and he quietly worked on other aspects of his game this summer – most notable being his jump shot. During his first couple of years with the Pacers, Hansbrough was developing a decent jump shot and it was at just under 40 percent from the field and 43.9 percent from 16 feet out to the three-point line as a sophomore, but his jump shot almost vanished the next year and was completely gone last season in Toronto.

“I’ll always have that (bruiser role) naturally, but eventually I would like to work on my game and eventually add some things,” Hansbrough said. “(My jump shot) is something that I have worked on and hopefully I’ll bring that back and be able to use it.”

The hard work on his jump shot over the summer has been apparent during shoot-around and showed up during the Raptors initial preseason game against the Kings when he unexpectedly made a three-pointer from the corner. It’s too early declare Hansbrough a jump shooter, but he will definitely still bring toughness and maybe he can evolve into more than just a bruiser with the Raptors this season.

 

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.

 

 

Tyler Hansbrough 1

Is Tyler Hansbrough A Raptors Reserve Or Trade-Bait?

It was not unexpected when Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri decided to pick up power forward Tyler Hansbrough’s $3.3 million team option for the 2014-15 season, Hansbrough was a favorite of Head Coach Dwane Casey because of his toughness, discipline and willingness to accept an less than hoped for role with the team. Hansbrough was an asset last season and Ujiri is loath to give away his assets without a good reason.

Hansbrough was Ujiri’s initial answer to a Raptors roster that was perceived as soft by the rest of the league. The former Tar Heels NCAA champion has been anything but soft throughout his stellar four years of college and four years with what evolved into the “smash-mouth” Indiana Pacers. He is an instigator who is willing to foul hard, but draws more fouls on opponents than he hands out. Hansbrough was the perfect example for Casey to point to while explaining what playing tough and smart looks like.

“Coach was very excited about Tyler and that is how coaches are,” Ujiri told Pro Bball Report last summer. “You bring in players that play the way (the Coach) wants to play and they are excited, but generally everybody knows the caliber of player (Hansbrough) is.”

Hansbrough also knew what he was bringing to the Raptors and he was hoping it would lead to a bigger role than in Indiana.

“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.”

Up until Toronto made the season-saving trade with Sacramento, Hansbrough was a significant piece of the puzzle for Casey, but he couldn’t steal any time from Amir Johnson and was limited to around 20 minutes and about 6 points and 6 boards per game.

Hansbrough plays like an undersized physical center from an earlier era or an effective FIBA big man creating havoc in the paint by drawing fouls, finishing below the rim and generally doing whatever it takes to stop his opponent from scoring around the basket. A lack of even modest range on his jump shot and difficulty defending outside of 15 feet prevented this 6’9 instigator from winning a bigger role.

When Patrick Patterson arrived, Hansbrough briefly found a role playing opposite the Raptors new stretch four, but an injury opened the door for the veteran Chuck Hayes to show why he has survived in the league for so long as a 6’6 center and Hansbrough found his role diminished even further.

If Hansbrough could not have dealt with the change, he wouldn’t have been back for the upcoming season, but he handled it well and continued to contribute whenever he was called upon.

“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.”

Hansbrough played in 46 games after the trade and his minutes dropped by a third from the first five weeks of the season, however, he maintained his production per minute played and improved his shooting to over 50 percent from the field.

In the stretches of games where Casey called upon him, Hansbrough came through. Over a 7 game stretch in February, he averaged 18.1 minutes, 7.3 points, 58.1 percent shooting and 5.7 rebounds and the Raptors were 6 wins and a loss. In the Raptors 119-118 OT loss to the Thunder in March, Hansbrough showed why Toronto can still use his physical presence as he played 20 minutes and put up 4 points, 6 boards, 2 blocks and a steal, but more importantly was able to get Serge Ibaka to implode.

“I think they got a couple of offensive rebounds and we were battling and I just got my hands on it and when that happened, I just kind of ripped it away,” Hansbrough said. “(Ibaka) must have said something. I didn’t do anything to him. Usually there is some kind of confrontation, but I had nothing to do with that (technical foul).”

Hansbrough had ripped the ball out of Ibaka’s hand like a bully stealing a little kid’s lunch money and the Thunders big man felt the effects even after the Raptors power forward was back on the bench.

The Raptors situation hasn’t changed all that much from last season except for adding more big men that Hansbrough will have to compete for minutes with. Hayes is still around filling a mentorship role that Hansbrough is not ready for and James Johnson, Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira will all be hoping to find minutes in a rotation that is largely set before the season even starts. Hansbrough can do things none of his competitors on the Raptors roster can, but his own limitations mean winning minutes is not going to be easy and likely not even probable.

So is this Coach Casey favorite for his toughness a Raptors reserve for the season or has Hansbrough become trade-bait for another franchise in need of some toughness to change the culture or possibly to use in an unfavorable future playoff matchup?

Either way, Hansbrough works for the Raptors this season. Injuries happen and Hansbrough can soak up significant minutes for Coach Casey if one of Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson or Jonas Valanciunas is going to miss a game or more. Hansbrough accepted this role last year and stayed ready and there is every reason to believe he could do it again. Also, the best trade opportunities often come out of the blue and where Hansbrough is a bona fide NBA big man, he also has an expiring deal that makes him an excellent asset to include in a trade.

Keeping Hansbrough around for the upcoming season could only be seen as win-win proposition for Ujiri no matter what happens.

 

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.

 
 

Tyler Hansbrough with the Raptors

TOR Hansbrough 2013 gym

Raptors Tyler Hansbrough Loved His Time at North Carolina

The Toronto Raptors Tyler Hansbrough accomplished just about everything possible basketball-wise during his four seasons with the North Carolina Tar Heels. A four-time Consensus All-America selection, the ACC career leader in points scored, free throws made and attempted and second in total rebounds and an NCAA Championship in his final year with the Tar Heels. Hansbrough loved his time in college and it wasn’t just for the basketball.

“I stayed at UNC year round and I loved it,” Hansbrough said. “Obviously it’s college life. I am not in a room thinking basketball 24/7, I lived the college dream. I did everything. I went to parties. I hung out. I took full advantage of everything. That’s what I did, that’s what I like to do. I like to go out and have fun. I had a big core group of friends. We liked to do a lot of things off the court. We were in there doing what every college student does.”

Once a player arrives in the NBA, everything changes. It becomes a job, a career and just like every other person leaving college, life comes with new responsibilities, relationships and challenges.

“You are going to have teammates and you are going to develop friendships in the NBA, but you are not going to have that like you did in college,” Hansbrough said. “It’s more business here. College is definitely a fun experience. In the NBA you have teammates that have families and they go home to their families. In college, you go home to a dorm room or whatever living situation you are in with your friends.”

As many college graduates do long after they have moved on, Hansbrough remembers his time at North Carolina as some of the best years of his life. However, he also credits his time spent there as helping him to prepare for his NBA career.

“College is kind of being the first time on your own and you kind of learn to take care of yourself,” Hansbrough said. “On the court is one thing, but off the court is another thing once you hit the NBA life. All the money and really it is the first time being on your own, so these guys coming out in their first year, it’s tough to live on your own at such a young age and when you get a lot of money it’s tough. College builds discipline and you get off the court experience and learn how to take care of yourself.”

However, after four seasons of college ball, Hansbrough knew it was time to move on.

“From a confidence level I knew what I could do,” Hansbrough said. “I accomplished a lot at the college level. I was ready to go to the NBA and test the waters there and see what I could do.”

The allure of big money in the NBA is always going to tempt players to leave college early, but if a player’s individual situation permits, there are benefits of staying longer and a price to be paid for leaving early. College life is fun and unlike anything a young person is going to experience after they start their career and it is a fairly safe environment to do some often-needed growing up. You could see it in his eyes as Hansbrough talked about his time at UNC. Those were some of the best years of his life.

 

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.

 

TOR_Hansbrough_Tyler

Tyler Hansbrough Provides Raptors Playoff Toughness

There shouldn’t be any doubt about what Tyler Hansbrough brings to the Toronto Raptors. Three years of postseason experience with the Indiana Pacers, the last two being slugfest type series with the Miami HEAT, Hansbrough has the playoff experience this young team will be looking for down the stretch of this season and beyond.

The Raptors recent double-overtime loss to the Thunder was a no quarter given slugfest where Hansbrough made his impact felt in limited minutes – just like what should be expected in a playoff game.

“That’s how the playoffs are,” Hansbrough said. “It’s a slugfest, its physical grind it out tough basketball. You can’t look for a whistle and that’s the way it was tonight. You have to play tough. For as good as they are, we took them to double overtime and we felt we could have won this game easily if things went just a little bit different. We’ll take confidence from this. No one is satisfied with this, we all wanted the win, so we’ll build off of it we’ll keep improving.”

The Raptors lost this game on an improbable long range three-pointer by Kevin Durant that wouldn’t have even mattered if John Salmons could have hit his free throws only seconds before. However, the game had all the earmarks of a playoff battle and the Raptors needed the experience if they are to get by the first round of the playoffs.

“We need every game we can (get),” Hansbrough said. “We are fighting for everything, but we’ll take off of it, build off of it and try to get the next one.

“Their core has been together for a while, so they kind of have a flow and know each other pretty good, so they have chemistry. Also the experience they have, they know what to do in these situations. They have been in close games. They know how to grind it out versus a young team. We haven’t been together as long as the Thunder has so it’s a big difference. They have a lot of experience.”

The ability of a team’s bench players to step up against opponents with superior skills is pretty much mandatory for any kind of successful playoff run and Hansbrough showed how he can impact the game while defending Serge Ibaka. Twice Hansbrough blocked Ibaka in the post and took the ball away from him, once getting Ibaka to talk himself into a technical foul.

“I think they got a couple of offensive rebounds and we were battling and I just got my hands on it and when that happened, I just kind of ripped it away,” Hansbrough said. “(Ibaka) must have said something. I didn’t do anything to him. Usually there is some kind of confrontation, but I had nothing to do with that (technical foul).”

Actually Hansbrough did create the opportunity to get the tech on Ibaka. The Raptors forward ripped the ball out of Ibaka’s hand like a bully stealing a little kid’s lunch money, but that is the kind of intensity found in a playoff game. Ibaka felt the effects even after Hansbrough was back on the bench.

“Everyone is playing as hard as they can and there was some good defensive effort,” Hansbrough said. “Everybody was contesting everything, everything was challenged and some nights are going to happen like that. It’s not going to be beautiful and it’s not going to be a pretty basketball game, it’s just going to happen.”

Hansbrough is one of a very few Raptors with significant playoff experience and the battle with the HEAT in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals is replaceable. He’s been in the tough games before and he wants to be in them again.

“I’ve been part of these slug-it-out kind of games and that’s kind of the reputation when I was with the Pacers we were known for – playing bully-ball a little bit,” Hansbrough said. “I’ve been in the league a little while and been part of these games. It’s fun, I enjoy it.”

Head Coach Dwane Casey will have challenges with his rotation going forward. When healthy, the Raptors frontcourt has become rather crowded. Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson are going to start. Patrick Patterson has earned the first big man off the bench spot when he gets back and the veteran center Chuck Hayes has carved himself out an effective specialty role.

Hansbrough’s impact, however, only seems to be getting more pronounced as the team gets closer to the playoffs. Referees are less inclined to whistle physical play in the post as the intensity of games ramps up, increasing the value of physical toughness above what it has through most of the regular season. Hansbrough has been through this before and playing with a hit-first mentality is a part of his make-up. His minutes and his stats probably won’t change a lot down the stretch, but the impact of this high intensity player will. The playoff bound Raptors are going to need Hansbrough’s experience and toughness.

 

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.

 

Check out:

Raptors Tyler Hansbrough: The Instant Warrior
“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.”

Overtime Thunder Theft By Kevin Durant In Toronto
Despite the score, this was a titanic defensive battle with neither team shooting over 40 percent from the field through 48 minutes. The Thunder tried to go big in the first half and the Raptors didn’t just hold their own, they outplayed them, in part because of some huge contributions from Tyler Hansbrough off the bench.

Hansbrough interview web

Raptors Tyler Hansbrough Loves Toronto

The Toronto Raptors signed Tyler Hansbrough as a free agent this past summer to give Head Coach Dwane Casey’s lineup some needed toughness, but the stone-faced Hansbrough, who earned the nickname ‘Physco T’ in college, is a hard guy to get a read on during games. He is so focused and intense all of the time, it’s hard to tell if he loves or hates his new situation this season.

“Actually, I love Toronto,” Hansbrough enthusiastically responded. “I was telling one of my friends, it’s probably one of the best cities I have ever lived in. As far as the fans go, I like to see them all come out to the games, it’s an atmosphere in here every night, everybody really gets into it.”

The big man has been quietly selling the benefits of living in Toronto to his family and friends and even though basketball activities take up most of his time, he brings them up to his new city so they can see for themselves.

“I am bringing my friends and family up, they are so excited,” Hansbrough said. “They want to come up and explore Toronto because I have been telling them all about it and my Dad loved it.

“I enjoy the city; there is a lot of things to do. I enjoy going out and eating in nice restaurants. I have been doing that, but besides that, I don’t get out and do anything else much.

“The CN Tower, it was pretty cool. My Dad came up and we drove over to Niagara Falls for a little bit and he was telling me how cool that was.”

Known as a player who likes to mix things up and enjoys physicality, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Hansbrough is a hockey fan and has been for some time. Don’t expect the burly Hansbrough to lace on skates and play, but he does like to watch.

“Obviously I don’t know much about hockey, but I enjoy watching it, Hansbrough said. “Multiple people have come up and told me that I have a hockey mentality which I enjoy, that’s the way I play and I embrace it.”

He started watching hockey in college, so Hansbrough was a Hurricanes fan first, but he has embraced the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.

“Honestly, I was a Hurricanes fan from being down in North Carolina my freshman year in college and watching them,” Hansbrough said. “I love going to hockey games. Honestly, I love the physicality. I love people getting checked. I love how intense the players are. I came to a Leafs game and I love them.”

When Hansbrough signed with the Raptors, he was hoping for a larger role than he had with the Pacers, however, he is playing almost exactly the same amount of minutes as he did last year. It doesn’t matter though, Hansbrough loves Toronto. He likes what the organization is doing and he really does like the city and their fans. There is a lot of sincerity in the tone of Hansbrough’s desire to stay for the long term.

“When I first got here, I wanted this to be a good situation for me,” Hansbrough said. “I wanted to play well here and be here many years and that’s the way I see it. I didn’t sign with Toronto for the short term, I want it to be long term and be a part of this organization because I really like the city, the fans and everything about it.”

 

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.

 

Also check out:

Raptors Tyler Hansbrough: The Instant Warrior
“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.”

Raptors Tyler Hansbrough Driven To Make An Impact
“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. “I feel like I could be a big part here.”

TOR_Hansbrough_Tyler

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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Tyler Hansbrough Likes Raptors Small Ball

Hansbrough interview webWhen the Raptors acquired free agent Tyler Hansbrough this summer, it looked like Toronto had a nice three man rotation between Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Hansbrough to cover the big man role. However, as Head Coach Dwane Casey moved through preseason and into the regular season, small ball has become the Raptors main focus and most successful lineup.

Hansbrough is often coming in off the bench as the only big man on the floor for extended periods and it is giving him new opportunities. Playing just a fraction of a minute longer per game than his career average, Hansbrough is grabbing 50 percent more rebounds and has added more than a block per game to his totals.

“It is different playing more of a big man role,” Hansbrough said. “It is a little different, in Indiana we never went small, so this is a little unique. It is good at times. It opens up the floor for me.”

The 6’9.5” Hansbrough was a senior at North Carolina and came into the NBA as physically ready to play as a team could expect from a rookie. Nicknamed “Physco T” in college, he has only built on his physical presence since he was drafted in 2009. Hansbrough might not have typical center size and didn’t play center in Indiana, but he does have center strength and rebounding instincts.

“(Hansbrough) gets in there with the elbows and he likes it rough. He likes to rebound and he likes to clear the paint,” veteran journalist Frank McLean said. “I can see Hansbrough having some big nights – 16, 17, might even put up a 20 rebound game. If he gets to the line enough and draws enough fouls, I could see a 20/20 game in there sometime this year, you just never know. He is going to be fun to watch.”

Hansbrough doesn’t feel like he is doing anything different on the boards. He has always been a very aggressive player who tries to get every rebound. The difference in a small ball lineup is a lot more of those rebounds are his to collect and he has been grabbing over 20 percent of all available rebounds while he’s been on the court – that’s close to Reggie Evans type numbers. The result has been 7.3 boards in just over 20 minutes per game.

“I feel like I am rebounding about the same (as in Indiana),” Hansbrough said. “Obviously I have probably gotten more rebounds, but the chances to get the rebounds are still the same.

“I think (a 20 rebound game) would be a good goal. Obviously I am going to approach it with the same mentality – I don’t go in there and try to count my rebounds – but I try to get every rebound I can and obviously I fight for every ball.”

The last Raptor to haul in 20 rebounds at the Air Canada Centre was Johnson on March 15, 2013 when he collected 21 against Charlotte. Johnson then got 18 boards two days later against Miami. Prior to that, Evans had 22 against the 76ers on November 24, 2010.

Playing small hasn’t become issue for Hansbrough or the Raptors, probably because there has been a league-wide trend to play this way. The tendency of most coaches, including Casey, has been to match other team’s small ball lineups. It helps that Hansbrough feels comfortable guarding smaller players.

“I am comfortable with the role (as the only big on defense),” Hansbrough said. “Obviously there are some schemes when we go small, (however, other) teams are going to go small to match it. There are times when I am really switched out on guards, but I feel comfortable in late clock situations checking a guard.”

Actually Hansbrough seems to relish playing against smaller players. He has never been one to hold back on his physicality because the size of player opposite him. Also on offense, playing with more guards and wings means there is an extra player to kick the ball back out to after he secures the rebound.

“There are more opportunities because the other bigs are not in the post with you,” Hansbrough said. “It opens up the lanes and we have more (space) and can do more moves a little freer because usually when someone collapses on you, you have another small to kick it back out to versus another big.”

So far this season, the Raptors rotation hasn’t produced many more minutes for Hansbrough than he received in Indiana, however, it has created a much bigger and more important role for the fifth year player. It’s a role Hansbrough has been flourishing in. Hansbrough signed with the Raptors to get a better chance to show what he could do. Apparently, given a chance, he can do quite a lot.

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.

Raptors Tyler Hansbrough Driven To Make An Impact

Hansbrough interview webFree agent Tyler Hansbrough quickly accepted the Raptors offer early in July as he saw an opportunity to have an impact after being stuck behind All-Star David West in Indiana for the past 2 seasons.

“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. “I feel like I could be a big part here.”

The 6’9 250lb power forward’s opportunities were limited with the Pacers, but over his 4 seasons there, he averaged 16.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and a steal per 36 minutes and his personal foul rate was a reasonable 4 per 36 minutes despite his very aggressive play in the paint at both ends of the court. Hansbrough actually draws fouls at an impressive rate and was fifth in free throw attempts per 36 minutes in the NBA last season. Known mostly for his aggressive defense, Hansbrough has been effective at the offensive end of the court.

“I know how to score too,” Hansbrough said. “I am kind of known for my defensive style and aggressive play, but when I get my chance, I can score too.

“My work this offseason really helped my post moves. I think there are a lot of things I can develop, but right now, I am really trying to work on post moves and mix it up a little better in the post.”

His offseason work has been showing up during the Raptors preseason schedule. Hansbrough is third in team scoring at 10.4 points on 55.2 percent shooting in just 18.6 minutes per game. He is also tied for second in rebounding with 5 boards per game. The big man wants to make a big impression on the Raptors coaching staff right away.

“That’s my style, but this is for me the way I want to approach the game,” Hansbrough said. “I try to come out and play hard, but also, it is a new year for me and a new team, so I am trying to make my impact early and I will try to carry that over (to the regular season).

“I am working really hard and I am a little more driven this year just because of the uncertainty and not knowing what’s out there. It is a new team so I am trying to get adjusted to things.”

No one has ever doubted Hansbrough’s work ethic on the court. The reason Head Coach Dwane Casey wanted “Physco T” and President and General Manager, Basketball Operations made him a priority in free agency was because Hansbrough only plays one way – he plays hard.

Now Hansbrough is even more driven than usual to make an impact. The Raptors represent his first real chance since college to show that can play significant minutes and be a big time contributor on the court. Also, his deal with the Raptors is not guaranteed after this season. However, Casey loves his style of play and aggressiveness, the opportunity for Hansbrough in Toronto is real. If “Physco T” can live up to his per 36 minute numbers from Indiana as a key rotation player this season, both Hansbrough and the Raptors will be the big winners.

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.

Tyler Hansbrough Sees Raptors In Playoffs

Tyler Hansbrough - shirtTyler Hansbrough has enjoyed quite a bit of success in his basketball career and the young veteran power forward sees the Raptors making the playoffs this season. An NCAA champion with the Tar Heels and an NBA Eastern Conference Finalist with the Pacers, Hansbrough has been through the process of team building and believes the Raptors have the pieces to make the postseason now.

“I think we can be a playoff team,” Hansbrough said. “I fully expect us to be a part of that. When I first got to the Pacers, we were not a playoff team and we gradually built to that, but I think (the Raptors) are in a better situation here. I think we have the pieces.”

Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri went after Hansbrough early in the free agent process because of his experience and his toughness. Hansbrough is a player that fits with Head Coach Dwane Casey’s style and Ujiri believes it is his job to bring players to his team that will help his coach win.

“Coach (Casey) was very excited about Tyler and that is how coaches are,” Ujiri said. “You bring in players that play the way (the Coach) wants to play and they are excited, but generally everybody knows the caliber of player (Hansbrough) is. Toughness, grit and a winner for sure, he has won every step of the way. We want to add those kinds of players.”

Hansbrough is a defensive player coming from a defense-first team in Indiana to play for another defense-first coach in Toronto, a player with playoff experience who should immediately add to the Raptors culture and goals.

“Obviously I can bring my playoff experience here,” Hansbrough said. “The biggest thing I learned in Indiana was the stress is defense and defensively, I think I can add a lot to the team. That was something we prided ourselves on in Indiana.”

Nicknamed “Physco T” in college – a moniker Hansbrough would like to shed – the big man plays with an intensity and fearlessness that isn’t common in the NBA. Hansbrough lives in the paint at both ends of the floor and loves to mix things up with other team’s big men. In the Raptors preseason opener in Boston on Monday night, Hansbrough and the Celtics Jared Sullinger picked up technical fouls in a scuffle under the basket that re-ignited a methodical game that was slowing down and lit a fire under Hansbrough’s own performance.

“Tyler’s intensity, if you don’t bring it with him you are going to get your butt kicked and he has taken the level of intensity, especially in the painted area to another level and we needed that,” Casey said. “(Hansbrough) gave us another huge jolt in the arm as far as his ability to get to the free throw line, to get tough rebounds, to create space in the paint, to set screens. That is just how he plays on every possession. Not every other possession, every possession and that is contagious. Our intensity level just took another step up when he walked into the gym.”

A defensive presence for sure, but Hansbrough tends to be overlooked at the offensive end of the court and that is a huge mistake, he is equally aggressive under either team’s basket.

“(Hansbrough) puts pressure on you,” said Ujiri. “There is number where he might be 5th in the NBA in getting to the free throw line per 36 or per 40 (minutes) and that is pretty impressive.

“All that means is he keeps putting pressure on you and attacking the boards and attacking the rim. He has developed some kind of jump shot from 15 feet (out). He has improved. He has become a mature player and that’s what you want with a power forward of that caliber.”

Hansbrough was 5th in the NBA in free throws per minute played last season and he shot 7-8 from the charity stripe in Boston Monday where he scored 17 points and pulled in 9 rebounds. He confirmed Ujiri’s assertion that he can hit his jump shots, but it was his relentless play under the rim that garnered the most attention. Hansbrough did a nice job of defining what his role will be with the Raptors this season.

“(The Raptors) had mentioned they need a tough physical big on the front line to help and that is me, so hopefully I can bring that part to the team,” Hansbrough said. “Obviously, I want to be a bigger part of the picture (on offense), so hopefully that will present itself, but I have to do my part and play and we’ll see what happens. I have a good jump shot.”

Casey and Ujiri have been avoiding promising anything this season, but every player on the team expects the Raptors to make the postseason. Hansbrough helps solve one of the Raptors biggest issues of recent years, a reputation for being soft. Ujiri is getting Casey players that should eliminate that perception and help give this team the grit to finally get back to the playoffs.

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.