- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tyler Hansbrough’s path to the NBA looks familiar to Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird.

The 6-foot-9 forwards from small towns both could have left school early, but they stayed for their senior seasons and played for national titles. Both built reputations for being tireless workers, and both heard from doubters who said they weren’t athletic enough to make it in the NBA.

“It reminds me of when I came out,” Bird said Friday as the Pacers introduced Hansbrough, the 13th pick in Thursday’s draft. “There was always this skepticism that I wouldn’t be able to play in this league against these players. Tyler’s got some of that going right now, but he’ll be fine.”

Bird began correcting his naysayers three decades ago. He joined the Boston Celtics in 1979 and left them in 1992 after winning three championships and three MVP awards. He doesn’t necessarily expect that from Hansbrough, but he believes the North Carolina star will be a key to the Pacers’ rebuilding effort.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to have a young man with the talent and character that Tyler has,” Bird said. “We all hear about his work ethic and his desire to get better every day. We know in the long run what his future is going to be. It’s going to be filled with nothing but accolades.”

After Bird made his comments, Hansbrough briefly spoke to the fans assembled in the lobby at Conseco Fieldhouse. Pacers coach Jim O’Brien then looked at Hansbrough and asked, “You feel any pressure?” drawing laughs from the crowd.

WARRIORS: Stephen Curry can get comfortable with Golden State. He’s not going anywhere.

Coach Don Nelson said the Warriors won’t trade Curry, their surprise selection with the seventh pick in Thursday’s draft.

The Davidson guard led the nation in scoring last season but seemed an odd choice for the Warriors, given that high-scoring guard Monta Ellis plays much the same style of game. It led to speculation that Golden State drafted Curry to trade him.

Although Nelson and general manager Larry Riley didn’t deny discussions with the Phoenix Suns about a trade for power forward Amare Stoudemire, they made it clear Curry won’t be a part of any potential deal.

CAVALIERS: Shaquille O’Neal hasn’t picked a house in Cleveland yet. He has chosen a jersey number - his old one. Shaq is going back to No. 33.

Traded to the Cavaliers on Thursday, the 15-time All-Star has decided to wear 33, the team confirmed. That’s the number O’Neal wore in high school and at LSU before turning pro. O’Neal wore No. 32 when he was in Orlando, Miami and Phoenix, and No. 34 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

From combined dispatches

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