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Pacers 2009-10 Player Reviews: A Bench Medley

Here we have a recap medley. See if you can catch the players as we blitz through a couple of injured bigs; one guy who I almost forgot about; Solo, to whom I apologize eternally for not having enough to say in his own recap; and even the Dienermobile, and everything he might’ve done wrong this past offseason.

Since two of these players suffered season-ending injuries, I figure this is also a good time to recap the Pacers injury issues in the 2009-10 season. Let’s see if we can get this right…

The ball got rolling all the way back in July. Tyler Hansbrough was said to be out indefinitely with a shin injury, which would lead him to miss training camp. He didn’t seem to be too lost out there when he finally hit the floor though. And in case you forgot, Mike Dunleavy was still recovering from knee surgery (unfortunately, it appears his blog You, Me and My Knee has disappeared from existence).

Travis Diener had a sore toe (which required surgery, remember that?). Troy Murphy suffered from a sore back, which led many of us to believe that maybe Roy Hibbert is a lot better without Murph in the lineup. Is that still the case? Jeff Foster suffered ankle and back issues, the latter eventually ending his season.

Danny Granger was broken before the season started, but overplayed when it did start, eventually costing him nearly a month of action with a torn plantar fascia. I still think that was a mistake to play him early on. He didn’t even look right in the earliest games. Back to Hansbrough, "The Ear Infection from Hell" struck him down and ending his rookie year at 29 games. I think we’re still figuring out how to cure this one.

Troy Murphy got back on the injury horse with a sprained left ankle, causing him to miss a little time beginning of the New Year (Roy only averaged 24 and 9 in three of those four games, just so we’re clear). Luther Head had a nasty viral infection and even A.J. Price found time to get concussed. Mike Dunleavy was bonked in the eye with a stray basketball, and to cap it all off, T.J. Ford spent the last month of the season nursing a left groin strain. I use the word "nursing" lightly.

Did we get it all? Even if we didn’t, let’s just say…we had our fair share. How did the injuries affect the longest tenured Pacer though? Let’s get to the players!

Jeff Foster

#10 / Center / Indiana Pacers

Jeff’s 2009-10 season was hampered with ankle and back issues that saw a noticeable drop in production and impact that Foster looked to get right in the new season. After spraining his ankle in the home opener against Miami, Foster sat out nearly an entire month before returning for what would be his final stretch of the year.

Foster’s best game came in Sacramento, as one of the league’s premier offensive rebounders grabbed 10 en route to a season high 18 rebounds. Clearly, he showed that he still had it in him to be a productive player. Things seem to be looking up following Foster’s back surgery, at least that’s the talk around the water cooler. Hopefully we can all get back to cheering for our beloved Jeff.

Barring a summer trade, Jeff will return to the Pacers for his twelfth season, joining Rik Smits as the second longest tenured Pacer ever. But with Foster’s veteran abilities, there’s a possibility he could be sent to a contender as a key piece to a deep playoff run. Whatever comes of Jeff this season, we love him dearly and wish him the best in his recovery. His lead by example mentality will come in handy if he can stay on the court this season.

Tyler Hansbrough

#50 / Forward / Indiana Pacers

I think we’re all still a little shocked we drafted Tyler Hansbrough (I believe my quote was, "My head just exploded."), but once that settled down, we got to look at what Hansbrough could offer the team. We know he’s an energy guy (the ultimate energy guy?), and we know he can live at the line (well, maybe that won’t work in the NBA). At the end of Tyler Hansbrough’s season, what do we know?

Well, he is an energy guy and he can live at the line (in the NBA!), but…that’s about it. That’s all we know. That’s all we got time to know. After missing the beginning of the season with a shin injury, Hansbrough returned to the lineup in extremely limited minutes against the Wizards, and made a heck of a splash: 13 points, 5 rebounds, 10 free throw attempts in 14 minutes.

Wait, ten free throw attempts? In his first game? Are you kidding me? Well, that’s one thing we might have with Hansbrough. And he did more of that, and then more scoring, and some more rebounding, and a lot more hustling. He even started to calm down at the line and drilled a perfect 10 of 10 in a game against Miami.

Note in a majority of his twenty-nine games, Hansbrough was on a limited minutes per game basis. That was usually around 20 minutes. So everything we got with Tyler was on an exceptionally limited basis. Absolutely everything. His shooting percentage was disgustingly poor, but his hustle was more than welcomed. It’ll be a real delight to see this guy actually produce next season.

Solomon Jones

#44 / Forward / Indiana Pacers

I’m terribly sorry again, Solo. You deserve better than this, but I’m just not sure I have enough to say about you to make it by itself. Jones was a curious signing towards the end of free agency, Solo joined an extremely crowded frontcourt without a real notable understanding what he would be doing.

For Solo, he had struggled to get consistent minutes on a deeply talented Hawks team, but thanks to quickly mounting injuries on the deep front court (funny how that happened) in Indiana, he was given the reigns of steady minutes right out of the gate. His game paid dividends as often as it looked raw and unpolished, but heavy minutes for a project early in the season might help improve him over the course of the season.

Okay, well, maybe not. Unfortunately, Jones’s growth never took hold, as he eventually slipped in the rotation and battled Josh McRoberts for minutes. Even despite nondescript statistical contribution, Solo would show up when you least expected him to give the team a huge lift at a crucial point in the game. He also got his first two starts in three years in 2009-10, playing adequately in both.

By the end of the season, McBobs had taken Jones’s rotation spot almost completely, as Solo battled with a team imposed one game suspension (for "actions detrimental to the team" in case you were curious) and a slight emergence of McRoberts. Regardless, Solo made the most of his limited minutes, again, showing up when you least expected him to give the team a much needed lift. There are worse things to be remembered for, I think.

Luther Head

#13 / Guard / Indiana Pacers

Head was brought in from the free agency pool to give the team some depth at the wing position. Like just about every player on the Pacers roster this year, he struggled to find steady footing in the rotation, and also struggled to find consistency that would get him a consistent rotation spot. But then again, Jim O’Brien’s rotations are more of an enigma than Brandon Rush at times, so maybe it’s not so bad after all.

Luther was a real hot and cold player for the Pacers. He’d have big games and then follow them up with no shows. It was tough to get a peg on Head’s overall game, but what I recall is that he was one of the few players on the team that searched for his own shot. Admirable in that sense, not so admirable because the shot he tried to create was usually not very good.

Thanks to injuries and general team suckiness, Head was given a starting role for a while around January, like most players. I even had to eat my words after a rather disappointing first half against Memphis, Head caught fire in the second half, helping to keep the team alive in the game, scoring a season high 30 points. He continued this pace for a few games, showing me up every single time (I get it, Luther, c’mon!).

Unfortunately, that pace wasn’t sustained, as Head began to struggle, which led to a lower spot in the rotation. Eventually, we never saw him anymore. Just two months after dropping that 30, Luther was relegated to garbage duties, barely finishing the last two months of the year with 30 minutes of action. Don’t expect to see Luther back, be sure to give us your most confused and dumbfounded face if you do.

Travis Diener

#12/27 / Guard / Indiana Pacers/Portland Trailblazers

Oh yes, the Dienermobile. Our good old standby from the The Great Point Guard Disaster of 2008 played in four games and for 25 minutes, scoring 3 points on 1-5 shooting. Sure he had some injury issues, but to be fair, he never had a chance in this rotation. Actually, while I don’t feel right to blame Diener’s relegation on early summer events, what did we hear about with Diener? He was at home in Fond du Lac, chop topping a clunker of a car. Are the two related? Maybe Brandon Rush should be paying attention. Either way, Diener was waived in March and signed with Portland. He was also the only Pacer to play in the playoffs this year, so maybe he got the last laugh after all.

It’s also 2010 and we’re still paying Jamaal Tinsley.