NBA PM: The Heart Of Roy Hibbert’s Struggles
One of the evolving stories around the NBA early in the new season has been the struggling Indiana Pacers. Sure, Danny Granger is out, but there is still enough talent on that roster to keep them in the discussion as one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, yet they sit at 3-6 on the season going into tonight’s game against the Dallas Mavericks.
The biggest reason why the Pacers are off to such a slow start might be the sluggish start by All-Star center Roy Hibbert, who inked a huge deal to stay with the team long-term this summer but is averaging just 8.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest while shooting 39 percent from the field. Last season Hibbert averaged career-bests of 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds on 50 percent shooting, and this year’s numbers more closely reflect his rookie season stats.
One source with knowledge of the situation told HOOPSWORLD recently that Hibbert’s slow start is not a big surprise, as former Pacers point guard Darren Collison had a lot to do with Hibbert’s success last season, and Collison is now playing for the Mavericks following an offseason trade.
“Darren was my good friend,” Hibbert tells HOOPSWORLD. “We talked, sat together on the plane, used to go have dinner on the road, lunch, always watching film together, just talking it through. I’d be frustrated at him at times and he’d be frustrated with me, but we’d talk it through. I used to get a lot of open layups, just him throwing the ball to me and the give-n-go cut. That’s something he’d get once or twice a game, but things change and obviously you have to adjust.”
“Roy was my guy, he was my best friend,” acknowledges Collison. “We had dreams of playing in Indiana for a long time and really trying to build that franchise into something special and we did the last two years. It’s a memory that I won’t ever forget, especially playing with Roy.”
The reality, of course, is that the modern NBA is a league of change. Few players have the luxury of spending their entire careers with the same teams, let alone the same teammates. Collison is confident that Hibbert will figure it out.
“It’s tough on him, he’s going through his struggles, but Roy is an All-Star player,” says Collison. “Every player struggles, but he’s a guy who can get his way throughout the season and make something happen for himself.”
“Yeah, we’re trying to figure things out,” agrees Hibbert. “I’m trying to figure things out as well. I’m not playing at the best of my ability, but I’m not going to get too down on myself right now, I just got to work through it. Just putting in a little more work than I have been, I mean, then I normally would in practice, just watch more film. I think I just need to relax a little bit and take my time when I’m out there on the court.”
At the same time, Hibbert is guarding against his own tendency to put too much pressure on himself.
“I’ve been one to over think some things, and I’ve been one to get down on myself to the point of depression before, but I’m not like that now,” says Hibbert. “I know, as a player, that I’m going to have my ups and downs. You always, at some point, have bad stretches during the season. It’s unfortunate that I’m in one right now, but hopefully I can get out of it and help my team win.”
Still, one thing that isn’t easily replaced is great chemistry, which Collison says is one of the most precious commodities.
“It’s extremely important; chemistry is probably one of the biggest things in the NBA,” says Collison, who returns to Indiana to start against his former team and his best friend tonight. “It’s actually underrated in the NBA, but if you look at the teams that win, they have chemistry not only on the court but off the court.”
As hard as it was for Hibbert to watch his friend leave, he also appreciates the opportunity the Mavericks were set to give Collison.
“The situation was bittersweet,” admits Hibbert. “I wanted him around, but I know he’s a starting caliber point guard so he has a chance to really get some minutes. I really want what’s best for him and his family, but at the same time I lost a friend. I just really hope he finds a home with a team that really appreciates him. I’m not saying we didn’t appreciate him, but I think [Rick] Carlisle cut out a real good deal for himself in Dallas.”
As for Hibbert and the Pacers, there is a very real sense of urgency to right the ship and start getting some wins.
“We don’t want to say, ‘it’s only a few games in, it’s early, it’s early,’ then that kind of steamrolls. We want to fix the problem now and try not to lose anymore games.”
As fate would have it, for the Pacers to end their current two-game losing streak they will have to do it by beating their former floor leader… and Roy Hibbert’s best friend.
Hickson Finds A Home In Portland
In a league where front court players are highly coveted, JJ Hickson has struggled to find his place. Expectations were high in Cleveland, where he started his career, and then he had a shot in Sacramento, but until he landed in Portland as a cast-off, he didn’t really find a place where he could belong in the NBA. Now he’s right at home, and in this exclusive interview he tells HOOPSWORLD why Portland is the place for him, what he thinks of his impressive young teammates, why he is so effective next to LaMarcus Aldridge, and more.
Josh Howard To The Rescue?
Once upon a time Josh Howard was an NBA All-Star, and a critical part of a Dallas Mavericks team that made it all the way to the NBA Finals in 2006. Since then, however, injuries and struggles have kept Howard from living up to his early hype and his significant potential. Not so long ago he was thought to be one of the best small forwards in the league, but this season he couldn’t even find a team interested in paying him at the beginning of the season.
Injuries create opportunities, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have suffered far more than their share. In their last game head coach Rick Adelman had just one starter – Andrei Kirilenko – available at top-off, as Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Brandon Roy and Nikola Pekovic all looked on from the sidelines.
Small wonder that Josh Howard’s phone finally rang.
“He’ll play behind Andrei,” Adelman told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune of Howard’s role. “I watching him work out last week, and you know, hopefully he’ll be able to give us some spot minutes at the start until we see where he is conditioning-wise.”
The idea is that Howard will take some of the load off of Kirilenko, who has played 44, 44 and 42 minutes, respectively, in each of the Timberwolves’ last three games. Of course, with Brandon Roy’s knees still somewhat of an unknown factor and the other injuries that have hit the team this season, there is always a chance he will find a bigger role.
Will Howard ever be the player he was in 2007-08, when he averaged 19.9 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 46 percent from the field and 32 percent from three? Unlikely. But if he can stay healthy, Howard might be a player who can give the Timberwolves somewhere in the neighborhood of eight-to-ten points per game and take some mileage off of players like Kirilenko and Roy.
Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @SusanBible, @DPageHoopsWorld , @stevesraptors, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.