I know, I know, if Hibbert was stock everybody would be selling. He’s already been voted the Guy Most Likely to Recede. If all of us had hair, we’d have pulled it out by now trying to determine just exactly what was going on with Big Roy.
While others have been having headline performances – David West with 31 in the 97-92 victory over the Bulls Sunday being the latest – Hibbert has been quietly, steadily, relentlessly putting his offensive game back together.
The Pacers have gone 6-1 since the break. The lone loss came in a game Hibbert missed while serving a one-game NBA suspension for his dance with Golden State’s David Lee, and the Clippers took full advantage of his absence to rack up 50 points in the paint, the most against Indiana in more than a month.
“He’s returning to Roy Hibbert,” Frank Vogel said after Hibbert had 19 points, 10 boards and three blocks against Chicago. “He struggled early in the year but this is the guy that became and All-Star last year, one of the best rim defenders in the league and gives us some scoring punch, as well. I’m definitely happy with how he’s playing right now.”
CONSISTENT, EFFICIENT, FORCEFUL
In his last five, Hibbert has averaged 13.8 points and shot 25-of-46 (.543) from the field. Sometimes these little statistical surges are powered by one or two monster games. Not so in this case.
Hibbert has become exactly what we’ve been asking: consistent, efficient and forceful. In each of those five games, he scored in double figures and made at least half his shots. He also averaged 4.6 free-throw attempts, more than twice his season average of 2.1 prior to this stretch.
“It’s getting to where I should’ve been at the beginning of the year,” Hibbert said.
The problem – and when a 7-2 center shoots 42 percent for the first 54 games of the season, it’s definitely a problem — could’ve been physical. Hibbert says the wrist injury that affected his shot most of the season is now fine and no longer needs treatment.
Or it could’ve been mental, a well-intentioned, hard-working, perhaps overly conscientious athlete putting too much pressure on himself.
BIG MAN NOW AN ANCHOR ON BOTH ENDS
Either way, it appears to be solved and now the Pacers enter the stretch run with the confidence that anchor of their defense has regained a threatening stance in the offense.
“To tell you the truth, defensively, that’s where my mind’s been at,” Hibbert said. “It’s been a godsend, to tell you the truth, that my offense wasn’t really going at the beginning of the season so I really focused on defense and tried to protect the rim, tried to protect the paint as much as possible and that was my role for a lot of the games – still is my role. But I think that me figuring that out first really helped us out.”
Since signing the max contract (four years, $58.4 million) prior to this season, Hibbert has been doomed by unrealistic expectations both internal and external. Fans saw the dollar signs and figured that meant Hibbert would become Patrick Ewing or Alonzo Mourning.
Hibbert seemed to fall prey to a similar line of thinking, as if the Pacers were paying him to become something else, something more. The fact of the matter was, they paid Roy to be Roy.
It just took him awhile to find himself.