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As Raptors seek new identity, Hansbrough brings toughness

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The Canadian Press
7/15/2013 6:15:10 PM
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TORONTO -- When Tyler Hansbrough threw Toronto Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas to the court during a game in February, it was one example of how his rough-and-tumble style can sometimes cross the line.

No foul was called and it's not a play Hansbrough wants to make a habit. But that's the kind of aggression around the basket the Raptors are hoping to get out of their newly signed power forward.

"He's going to knock you down," general manager Masai Ujiri said. "I think we need a little bit of that, and we're excited to have it."

Hansbrough is a small piece of a major reconstruction project for Ujiri and the Raptors. The team must forge a new identity, and if this addition is any indication, it will be one built on defence.

"I felt like they could use a guy like me," Hansbrough said. "I can bring a lot of toughness to the team, a lot of hard work and effort and bring some leadership just the way I approach the game and hopefully it will rub off."

Hansbrough joins a front court rotation that includes Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Quincy Acy. The 27-year-old is a career 20-minute-a-game power forward, and Ujiri sees him as a "strong rotation player."

Hansbrough would like to be more than that. He has only started 38 of 246 career NBA games, but the North Carolina product figures he's more than just a minor role player.

"I can be more than just a 20-minute energy guy coming off the bench at times," he said. "I feel like I can really add that, improve my jump shot and become effective."

Defence is undoubtedly the strength of Hansbrough's game. He's averaging 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds but is a solid low-post defender who plays beyond his six-foot-nine, 250-pound frame.

Ujiri has seen some development on the offensive end for Hansbrough, who got to the free-throw line 300 times last season, as much as San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan.

"All that means is he keeps putting pressure on you and attacking the boards and attacking the rim," Ujiri said. "He's developed some kind of jump shot from 15 feet. He's improved. He's become a mature player and that's kind of what you want with a power forward of that calibre."

Naturally, the Raptors didn't get Hansbrough for his offensive prowess. They know what to expect from him.

"Toughness, grit, a winner," Ujiri said. "He's won every step of the way. We want to add those kind of players. Toughness and grit, good experience in the NBA as a power forward."

After trading centre Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, swingman Quentin Richardson and a couple of draft picks, Ujiri signing Hansbrough to a two-year deal is just another step in a roster transformation. And it's certainly not the end of it.

Ujiri has a veterans minimum salary exception to use and knows another backup guard is needed. It also couldn't hurt to get better shooting the ball.

"We do understand that there are other things we need to work on with making the team better," he said. "We'll continue trying to add to see what we can get."

Tyler Hansbrough (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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