A New All-Star Rising In The East?
Roy Hibbert is going to be an All-Star this year. That, at least, is the opinion of an increasing number of Eastern Conference opponents, and if the coaches feel the same way as their players, there’s a strong possibility that Hibbert ends up as the back-up center to Dwight Howard at this winter’s All-Star Sunday.
Hibbert shook off the notion that he’d be given such an honor, but he won’t deny the fact that he’s having a career season. He attributes that success to being one of the few guys in today’s NBA that spent four full years in the NCAA.
“I think me putting in four years at Georgetown really helped me out,” Hibbert told HOOPSWORLD. “There’s nothing wrong with going the one-and-done route, but I was able to mature and I was able to figure out the ins and outs of being able to score with either hand.
“I really feel like I’m the best passing big man in the league, hands down,” he continued. “I don’t care what anybody says. I learned how to pass the ball during my four years at Georgetown, and I feel like I came mentally prepared for this league.”
Strong words from a player just coming into his own, but the argument certainly could be made that he’s right. At 7’2”, Hibbert is the second tallest player in the NBA behind only Hasheem Thabeet, so the fact that he can not only pass the ball so well, but also knock down 18-foot jumpshots with consistency is pretty amazing.
His 9.8 rpg (12th in the league) and 1.7 bpg (also 12th), however, are little more in line with what you’d expect from someone that size, and defense is where Hibbert has really made his mark for a suddenly formidable Indiana team.
“I’ve been really committed to this defense and making sure I clog up the paint, get rebounds and make sure I stop my guy and other guys around the basket from scoring,” Hibbert said.
“I watch a lot of film,” he added. “I have a guy who breaks down offensive clips and defensive clips of the guy I’m going up against that night. I’m learning tendencies and just trying to figure out ways to make things more difficult for the person I’m guarding.”
So far, he’s had a good deal of success defending the league’s premier centers, which means there’s a strong possibility that he’ll get paid like a premier NBA center when he hits restricted free agency this summer. Indiana chose not to extend him before the deadline passed last week, but he doesn’t seem particularly concerned about that.
“My agent is handling all of that. We got an offer but we decided that we are going to wait until the summer to figure it out,” Hibbert admitted.
And honestly, that might not be a bad idea. Big men go for a premium in free agency, and should the Pacers win their first playoff series since 2005—something that doesn’t look unreasonable the way the team has played so far this year—Hibbert could stand to make himself even more money. The extension will be there, eventually, and Indiana’s franchise center seems to want to stay where he is.
“We just have to take it one step at a time,” he said. “This is a shortened season but there is a lot more games. In the summer I’ll have a different answer but for right now I’m just focused on the task at hand and that’s winning a lot of games.”
Meanwhile, Hibbert just wants to keep improving. There’s a strong sense that he’s already improved enough to represent the Pacers at the All-Star game this year. Should he get named to the team, he’d be the first Pacer representative since Danny Granger in 2009. The numbers are there, his team is winning, and he plays a position where the competition is pretty thin after Dwight Howard.
Perhaps this is the year—for the All-Star appearance, the playoff series win, and who knows what else. It all seems good for Hibbert and the Pacers this season, and it looks like things are only going to get better.