May 11, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) and forward Paul George (24) celebrate during the third quarter of game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center. Indiana Pacers defeated Washington Wizards 95-92. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana Pacers: Roy Hibbert Can't Repeat Last Year's Tragedy

7’2″ monsters are supposed to be exactly that;  monsters.

Roy Hibbert started off the 2013-14 season with a bang, causing the ruination of multiple offenses each and every night.  By the end of November, Hibbert had collected 60 blocked shots, with an average of 3.75 per game.

Much of the game of basketball, though, is misunderstood.

In reality, that number was too low to justify how dominant Hibbert was defensively, since “blocked shots” doesn’t always prove who the best rim-protectors are.

Hibbert

May 13, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) reacts to a foul call in a game against the Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Washington defeats Indiana 102-79. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Hibbert’s main superiority isn’t rejecting people at the rim, it’s changing opponents’ shots in the paint.  With the unwritten “rule of verticality,” Hibbert was able to stand straight up in the paint and force opposing point guards to alter their shots once they get remotely near the restricted area.

Let’s not try to act like Hibbert did all of it in a legal manner, however.

Contrary to what a lot of people choose to believe, the refs let Hibbert get away with his body attacking guards, while his arms remained up in the air.  Some of the time, as Tim Donahue has pointed out before, Hibbert mauled players and completely got away with it.  Using your body as contact is still a foul, and the refs seemed to favor Hibbert in that regard during the regular season.

But, you can only go with the factual evidence that you see transpire on the court, and that equaled Hibbert not getting called for many fouls that he probably should’ve.

Defensively, only one center outshined Hibbert on that end of the floor, and that was the Defensive Player of the Year in Chicago.  Joakim Noah‘s effort and speed exceeds Hibbert, and there’s a large difference between your team needing  you to be their best player, and a team needing you to just be consistent.  Noah was relied on heavily by his Chicago teammates and fans to be the one that mitigates the beatings without Derrick Rose on the court.

There’s also that facet of the game called offense, and Hibbert hasn’t figured out the definition of it.

He’s the type of center to have spurts where he explodes against defenses without an All-Star center, such as he did nearly every time Miami tried to contain him.

After the All-Star break, Hibbert averaged  just 8.9 points per game on 39 percent shooting.  For a center that lives near the restricted area, 39 percent shooting is enough to issue a search warrant, wondering who kidnapped your game.

In terms of centers, that ranked Hibbert 40th in points per game during the second half of the season.

Don’t get the issue started with rebounding … please.  When he’s been that aggressive from November to February (and don’t forget, he’s still the same height), grabbing 4.7 rebounds per night is not even unacceptable.  It’s lamentable and worthy of giving minutes to Ian Mahinmi, as horrid as that still is from an offensive standpoint.

Lance Stephenson led the unit in rebounds, and when do you ever find another team asking their shooting guard to lead the roster in that area?  You don’t, and it only happened with one last season:  The No. 1 seed that nearly experienced defeat in the first round.

Hibbert

The tragedy and collapse after February 18th can’t happen this upcoming season, because there’s not a possible scenario that sees Indiana grabbing a top three seed with just Paul George carrying the team.

I get it, and I understand:  It’s a collective effort with Indiana.  That’s how they’ve always wanted to play, and exactly the type of mentality Frank Vogel has ingrained in their head.  In all honesty, these guys (excluding Stephenson) were drafted as unselfish individuals, and they don’t think of themselves as “the guy.”

Of course Lance was trying to be a little selfish and carry most of the load, he was in his contract year.  Who wouldn’t try to do that?  It always happens, regardless of the player.  They have breakout years when they’re trying to get paid.

Now with Stephenson gone, the team is going in a different direction.  If Hibbert isn’t ready to take on more responsibility, they can kiss 50 wins goodbye.  This discrepancy in production before and after mid-February isn’t plausible if they hope to be competitive in the stronger East.  Incredibly stronger.

Recently, Hibbert announced that he’s working with the greatest center of All-Time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Now, there isn’t much that Hibbert is going to learn defensively.  Instead, he’s working on finding his niche on offense, and developing Kareem’s post moves.  Has Hakeem Olajuwon‘s work with Dwight Howard translated into offensive domination?  Not necessarily, as it’s all a work in progress.

Fans can’t expect Hibbert to come away from these workouts with a revived, automatic hook shot, or the best footwork in the game.  It doesn’t work over summer, in private sessions.  He’s got to put it to use in an actual game, against competition that’s not age 60.

With the repetition and harder work than he’s ever put forth in an offseason, Hibbert should aim for a 16-18 point per game level next season, realistically.

The team just hopes you temper your expectations, and still recognize they’ll be a top defensive force in the East, once again.

That’s not out of the question.  However, it’s becoming a little less believable that they’ll top the conference in wins and homecourt dominance again.  Find yourself a consistent  Roy Hibbert, as hard of a search history has proven that to be.

 

Tags: All Star Break Frank Vogel Hibbert Struggles Indiana Pacers Lance Stephenson Paul George Roy Hibbert

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