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Pacers rookies Hibbert and Rush adjust to NBA

Friday, October 3, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indiana Pacers expect rookies Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush to play key roles in helping the team climb to the top of the NBA.

Hibbert and Rush are among nine new players competing for spots in training camp, and Indiana coach Jim O'Brien has been impressed with them so far.

"Drafting people like Brandon and Roy, if they work hard and are mentally tough in their ability to improve, they are certainly going to be very, very important pieces as we build toward a championship contender," O'Brien said Friday.

Both of them were selected in the first round of the draft, although neither pick was by the Pacers.

The 6-foot-6 Rush was selected by Portland, the 13th overall pick, and sent to Indiana as part of a draft-day trade for Ike Diogu. Hibbert, a 7-2 center, was picked 17th overall by Toronto and came to the Pacers as part of a trade for Jermaine O'Neal.

"This is a great organization," Hibbert said. "We're in a rebuilding process right now, so hopefully I can be part of bringing them back."

Hibbert played four years at Georgetown, averaging 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds during his career. Rush spent three seasons at Kansas, scoring 13.3 points per game last year as the Jayhawks won the NCAA championship.

Pacers swingman Danny Granger, a first round pick in 2005, believes the two rookies can contribute immediately.

"With some rookies, you have to wait a couple years for them to develop. I think Brandon and Roy are ready to play right now," Granger said. "They're willing to listen and take instruction from the older players and coaches, so that's always a good thing."

Even with their college experience, Granger said it could take some time for Hibbert and Rush to fully adjust to the NBA.

"It happens to all rookies, but they'll get there," Granger said.

With four days of training camp under his belt, Rush is feeling more confident.

"I think I'm fitting in well," he said. "There are still a lot of things I need to learn, but other than that, practice has been going good. I'm starting to get down the plays and understand the system coach O'Brien is trying to run."

Perhaps more important than their ability to score points, Hibbert and Rush were both effective defenders in college. The Pacers were one of the worst defensive teams last season.

"I want to be a defensive presence," said Hibbert, who finished college with 259 blocked shots. "My main job is to deter people away from the basket."

O'Brien expects Rush to be one of the team's best defenders.

"We drafted Brandon for the same reason we think Danny (Granger) is a heck of a player," O'Brien said. "They're going to put points on the board, and they have the capability of defending at a high level."

Notes:

The Pacers had three players miss Friday morning's practice with injuries. Guards Travis Diener (sore foot) and Mike Dunleavy (sore knee) were joined on the sidelines by forward Troy Murphy (sore foot). O'Brien said earlier this week that Diener could be out up to 4-6 weeks. Dunleavy and Murphy could return to practice soon. ... The Pacers had an open practice on Friday morning and several college coaches attended, including Purdue's Matt Painter.



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