NBA PM: Hibbert, Pacers Take Pride In Defense
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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The Indiana Pacers are not going to be at full strength going into the postseason. They’re going to be missing a very big piece in starting small forward Danny Granger. However, they’ve grown accustomed to playing without Granger, who has only played in a handful of games this year, and when the news broke that he would not be able to return this season they just kept on rolling.
Currently 48-27 overall, the Pacers have won their last five games and are 8-2 in their last 10. Very few teams would be able to maintain with the guy who is arguably their best player out for the year, but the Pacers have proven to be far from a one-man team. More important than their depth, though, has been the team’s commitment to defense.
“We’re just committed to guarding our own man,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert said to HOOPSWORLD. “Our guards and forwards take pride in defense and anything at the rim I try to clean up as much as possible.
“I just want to be the best defensive player I can be and hopefully in the league. I take pride in defense and I just want to make sure nobody scores in the paint.”
Every great defense has to have an anchor. In this day and age, with the tremendous skill level and athleticism of players, it’s impossible to keep them in front all the time. That’s where the big man has to come and help, which Hibbert does just about as well as any big man in the league.
“Being a seven footer, being the center, you have to protect the paint as much as possible,” Hibbert said. “I have my deficiencies but at the end of the day defense wins game.”
The deficiency that was being focused on the most early on in the season was Hibbert’s offensive game. He looked like a far cry from the player who was deserving of a max contract like the one he received in the offseason. He’s still not finishing at the rate he would like to, but Hibbert has definitely shown signs of improvement from a wrist injury that was the main culprit for his offensive downslide.
“It took some time for it to heal,” Hibbert said. “I was using my left hand for the most part of the beginning of the season. I’m still working on it. It’s still a work in progress.”
With seven games left in the season, Hibbert is confident about the direction of the team, but is glad they still have a little bit of time before the playoffs start.
“I think we’re good,” Hibbert said. “We’re peaking right now, winning on the road. Everything is coming together. We still have some work to do, obviously. Get people rolling and secure our seed, go ahead and hopefully win the conference. That’s the biggest thing.”
Jay-Z gets into the Agent Business: In the ultracompetitive sports agency world, life is never easy. It’s a grueling business where being loyal is somewhat of a lost art. Potential clients are all about going with who can do the most for them in their time of need.
Shawn Carter, better known as famous rapper and businessman Jay-Z, is entering the sports agent world himself. Roc Nation, his entertainment company, is now a partner with Creative Artists Agency (CAA). The announcement came at the same time as New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano announced that he’s leaving Scott Boras, one of the most powerful agents in baseball, for Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.
For now Jay-Z, who is not yet a certified agent, and his company will focus primarily on baseball. However, there is a plan in place for them to eventually venture into basketball, where they would have a lot of appeal and name recognition, as well. For that to happen, though, Jay-Z would have to give up his minority ownership in the Brooklyn Nets.
Jay-Z has well-publicized friendships with some of the league’s biggest stars and is still a respected figure amongst the youth due to his music career. If he becomes a certified NBPA agent, he could become a serious force in quick fashion.
NBA, NBRA Comment on Willard’s Passing: NBA official Greg Willard passed away yesterday due to cancer. The basketball world is mourning his loss today and both NBA commissioner David Stern and the National Basketball Referees Association released the following statements:
“The entire NBA family joins me in mourning the loss of one of our own, Greg Willard,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said. “Greg touched all those with whom he came in contact thanks to his extraordinary spirit, dedication and hard work. As a Finals referee, he reached the highest level of his profession while at the same time demonstrating a strong commitment to his family and his community. Our thoughts are with his wife Laurie, their children and the rest of the Willard family during this difficult time.”
“Greg epitomized what it meant to be an NBA Referee through dedication to his craft, hard work, and integrity both on-and-off the court,” said NBRA General Counsel Lee Seham. “He was not only a great NBA Referee, but more importantly a wonderful person, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
To honor Willard, NBA officials will wear either a wristband or patch with his jersey number 57 for the rest of the season. All games on Tuesday and Wednesday will also have a moment of silence for him.
Healthier Knicks Rolling: The New York Knicks have been hit by the injury bug frequently throughout this season. They’re still without Amar’e Stoudemire, but the team has found a groove as of late, winning eight games in a row.
“Guys are starting to get healthy,” Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said in an interview with WFAN in New York. “That is the most important thing. I think we kept our composure throughout that little scare that we had on that road trip. We came back, we bounced back and guys are starting to have fun again, guys are starting to get their confidence back as individuals and as a team. We are taking it one day at a time. We know it’s a long season. You’re going to have ups and downs and it’s just a matter of how you bounce back from that.
“I think everybody saw when we were a healthy team how good for a team we are and how we respond out there. At the end of the day, that is the most important thing for this team. We must go into the postseason healthy.”
As important as the team’s overall health is, the Knicks are only going to go as far as Anthony can take them. He’s their best player and the guy who has to be at his best in order for them to win a playoff series, which he can’t wait for the opportunity to do.
“No [the knee] is not a problem,” Anthony said of his previous injury. “That was the main thing. Just had to figure out exactly what was wrong. Once I got the knee drained I was back to normal.
“I can’t wait, I can’t wait [for the playoffs]. It’s something I have been looking forward to. Even before I first came here, I always told myself and the people around me, ‘this is going to be a three year process to get back to where everything needs to be as far as basketball goes.’ This is the third year. We just have to get into the postseason healthy, confident and with a division title and keep it going.”