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Pacers Need Hansbrough And Foster To Return Ready To Play

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As goodlucksaturday linked in the FanShots, mighty Mike Wells took home some good news and some bad news from the Pacers' Sunday practice session.

First the bad news (hey, we're already in the mindset to handle bad news so let's get it over with). Jeff Foster will be out of action for at least two weeks to tend to a sprained ankle. Mabye this is a blessing in disguise because the time off for the ankle should also help Foster improve his bothersome back which has been a problem since early in training camp.

As for the good news, rookie Tyler Hansbrough continues to practice without issues and Wells reports the rook may make his debut on Friday against Washington. Wouldn't that be nice? The Pacers need a jolt of energy to shake everybody up. Even if he fouls out in ten minutes, Hasbrough could provide a boost throughout the roster, although I'm sure his minutes will be minimal while he keeps working his game into shape.

Hansbrough and Foster, by doing the little things from an energy and hustle aspect, can make a big difference for this team that continues to look for an edge. Foster particularly has proven he can be effective without leaving behind a stat line that catches your eye.

Foster may frustrate some fans for what he can't do on the court, but more than ever, the Pacers need him to be a steadying force in the front court with Roy Hibbert and Solo Jones developing as young bigs. When Foster is healthy and ready to play, which he wasn't in the first two games, there are things he does to help the team on the court succeed that don't show in the final box score.

Whether it's throwing all his weight into an opposing big, or making a stroll through the lane less pleasant for an opposing wing, or simply tapping a missed shot to keep a possession alive, Foster finds a way to make an impact on the court.

Sure his shot is unreliable and he's missed his share of bunnies which are far more memorable than the subtle things fans may not even notice.  But a quick look at the +/- numbers show that the team succeeds when Foster is on the court.

Last year, Foster led the team in individual +/- (+93) as one of only two players in the positive (Granger +65) for the season. When you start adding teammates it gets even more impressive. Foster was part of the top four two-player combinations. Among three-player combinations, he was part of the top four and seven of the top eight player combinations. Among four-player combinations, Foster was part of the top five and eight of the top nine player combinations. For five-player combos, Foster was involved in two of the tope three and 10 of the top 15 player combinations.

Even last year, Foster struggled with his back and assorted other injuries, but for this current team to imrpoves its fortunes, Foster needs to get healthy enough to get back on the court and provide the positive impact he's delivered in the past.