NBA Centers Feel Caught In ‘Frontcourt’ Squeeze

Roy Hibbert didn’t have to think about his answer. This wasn’t anything to ponder, like choosing between Schnauzers at the Westminster Dog Show or swirling a fine wine across one’s palate one more time before rendering judgment.

This was instant and heartfelt, Hibbert’s answer when asked about the new NBA policy of voting for “Frontcourt” on the All-Star ballot.

“It’s bull!” the Pacers’ center said.

Hibbert, naturally, has some skin in this change. He was in Orlando last February for All-Star Weekend, a member of the East squad as his reward for a strong first half in the frenzied post-lockout season. It was a proud moment in his young career, it was fun (despite his 10-minute appearance in the game) and Hibbert probably imagined making a few more trips to the annual showcase.

So, the league’s announcement that centers would henceforth be lumped in with forwards on the fans’ ballots hit Hibbert where it hurt. Mind you, this conversation took place late in the preseason, soon after the decision was made public. The man’s feelings were raw.

“It’s making it harder for true centers,” Hibbert said. “It makes the pool a lot bigger. It’s whatever the people want. Last year, I wasn’t going into the season saying, ‘Hey, I want to be an All-Star.’ It kind of happened. I just played my game, so whatever happens this year happens.”

With the initial returns of fan balloting due out Thursday, it was going to be interesting to see how centers were faring. The change was made for several reasons. The one most often cited by the NBA was an evolution in today’s style of play away from traditional centers, driven by a scarcity of the dinosaurs who once ruled the hardwood. When long-but-lithe forwards such as Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh willingly shift to the middle for Boston and Miami, respectively, it’s pretty clear the ranks of bangers have (literally) thinned.

Another suspected factor is the shortage of legitimate stars at the position – even teams that play with a quote-unquote true center often go with a grinder there, not some future Springfield enshrinee. That might not mesh so well with a game that is all about highlight plays and shadow defense.

“I understand that the NBA is getting smaller,” Chicago center Joakim Noah said. “I understand the fact that maybe having centers on the court in an All-Star Game, it’s less flashy. They want people to drive it into the paint and shoot it.

“For the show of it, it’s probably better not to have a center in there. Opening up the court makes it better for the more athletic players, and I think the NBA cares about that a little bit.”

Fine. But guess what? Rounding up 12 legitimate candidates per conference wouldn’t seem like such a chore this season. And sending a couple from each side to Houston wouldn’t require reaching down for a 2012-13 version of ex-All-Stars Jamaal Magloire or Brad Miller, who logged a combined 31 minutes in 2004 at the glamorous Staples Center.

For the West, Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Utah’s Al Jefferson and the Lakers’ Dwight Howard wouldn’t have to apologize to anyone. Out East, just going with the traditional types and disregarding teams’ records, there’s Noah, Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao, New York’s Tyson Chandler and Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez, among a few possibles.

It still might work out for some of them. If they aren’t voted in as starters by the fans, getting snubbed in a crush of forwards, the backup spots on each roster still are selected by the conference coaches. Those guys might not worry about showbiz or trends.

“At the end of the day, [earning the coaches' votes is] the biggest honor to me,” Noah said. “If you’re a center and you deserve to be in it, you’ll be in it.”

But if not? Hibbert shrugged off the question. “Who said, ‘The times are a-changin’?’ ” he wondered. “Bob Dylan? The times are a-changin.’ “

40 Comments

  1. reggie says:

    This is a political correct society and now it has affected the NBA in that players are not known by their positions but as back court or frontcourt players or bigs. No true mention of their killed position: Center, power forward, small forward, shooting guard or point guard. This is really a shame, no voting for centers in a all star game? You got to be kidding me.. Wilt is having a heart attack.s

  2. danny says:

    I think Howard shouldn’t be in a all star game. he has not play well, plus LAKERS are worst team in NBA right now. Also, pau gasol is not going to a All-Star game since he is been struggling and have not play many games.

  3. DWADE 3 says:

    This is the reason why Mark Cuban says the nba is rigged. See, the nba is all about entertainment and back in the day
    of David Robinson and Wilt and all those guys always use to dunk on everyone. But since TV and HD were invented there are so many new technical fouls and that’s why there are almost no more post up dunks!!

  4. Logic says:

    It’s funny how Hibbert is complaining yet he is playing nowhere near the level of an all-star this year (9.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 37% FG <— lmao), and Noah isn't complaining at all and is much more deserving of an all-star nod.

  5. Brynamite says:

    The whole voting process isnt fair. Players like dwight howard and jeremy lin who don’t deserve to go this year are getting the nod because people vote for the wrong reasons. David Lee and Anderson Varejao deserve to go but won’t and ricky rubios hurt and could still get enough votes to go. Its crazy.

  6. KGFan says:

    Any big man shooting 37% from the field needs to forget about the All-Star ballot and start worrying about why he can’t make a shot from six to eight feet.

  7. Eli Odell J. says:

    just remember causa all the foreigners and their biased votes if we didnt let the coaches pick the reserves at this point jeremey lin (china/asia) and ricky rubio’d (europe) be allstars

  8. Funnyq says:

    I dont understand why Blake Griffin got more votes than Tim Duncan this year! Blake isn’t even average a double double this year, and Duncan at his 16th season still rolling with 18ppg 10rpg a game. Cmon people

  9. omyblaze57 says:

    Still, the position it’s called CENTER. They should recognize the job they do. Blake Griffin will never be able to guard Dwight Howard or Roy Hibbert down low. KG and Bosh are 6’11” guys that could play either the 4 o 5, so is not much of a deal if they keep switching positions, but what about those true centers that deserve to be in the All Star Game, and they don’t get the call just because some fans show more love to a frontcourt with Carmelo, LeBron, and Josh Smith? SMH…

  10. skeet says:

    Roy hibbert is big for nothing

  11. DWADE 3 says:

    Centers these days are just lame. I mean look at Ben wallace and David robinson and hakeem olujauion Those guys were the real deal but now all you have is lame bynum who is still huret and dwight (who used to be good) but is playing with a injury and joakim noah just isnt good enough

    • Brynamite says:

      Yeah, even the best big men in the league now arent even dominant. Back in the day if you had a big man you threw him the ball and let him go to work. Now theyre just out there for rebounding, most of them arent even that great on defense

    • dd def says:

      how you mention ben wallace without saying kareem, russel, ewing or wilt? now THOSE guys were the real deal, ben wallace was just an above average thugaboo

    • Bullsfan4life says:

      Wade has lost his talent and should never play in an allstar game again. Neither shoud bosh.

  12. DWADE 3 says:

    Roy hibbert is an all star not luol deng I mean deng really!?

    • Bullsfan4life says:

      Loul leads the league in minitues played. Loul is the best defensive small foward in the league. Lu is the leading scorer and vetern leader with top team in the centeral division and fourth in the east all WITHOUT the team’s superstar the first half of the season. And he does this all without the athleticism of the other sf’s and while playing with only ONE HAND. That is worthy of the HOF. hibbert is not even worh his contract and will be amnestied before it is over. Loul deserves to start in the game.

  13. 220 says:

    I personally think it would be better to have it listed as two front court positions. So basically all the power forwards and centers together and three backcourt positions.

    The way they have it set up now a team could be tiny with three small forwards in the front court and two guards in the back court. Having two front court spots, between power forwards and centers, would allow for at least two legitimately big guys to make the all star team.

  14. Elie says:

    The pacers are the number one defensive team today becasue of Roy Hibbert, he is definitly an all-star player

  15. [...] But the old school centers don’t like it. Look what Roy Hibbert said to NBA.com. [...]

  16. dr1 says:

    @ G and Milz He didn’t offer his opinion they asked him genius.

  17. tony says:

    As much trash as you guys want to talk about Roy and how he isn’t even in top 8 of the centers in the East clearly don’t watch much basketball.

    I understand his offense isn’t what it usually is right now, but he is most likely the best defensive center in the East. He is second in the league in blocks per game. SECOND. He protects the rim every single night and He is a HUGE reason the Pacers are one of the best defensive teams in the league.

    • bulls_fan_2009 says:

      maybe you should go compair some stats cause hibbart is not the best center in the east. hell not even the best in his division, noah and veragao both top hibbart in every catagory except blocks and thats for this year. dont believe go compare the stats you can even do it right here on nba.com hibbart has potenial but still needs to grow, thus far into the season he doesnt deserve the all-star nod

  18. renz_garnett says:

    i wish kevin garnett will make it to the all star this season.. big fan of him..

  19. Najee says:

    I hate how the game is today with the center situation. We need the real centers back. I cant stand seein Power forwards playin that position. Dont get me wrong, some of ‘em can play the center position well, and I ‘ont have a problem with that. I know that every big man isn’t goin to be 7 feet tall, but we need somethin close to that. 6’10 or 6’11 is good.

  20. Rob hobby says:

    If you are not deserve to be an allstar, you are not, period.

  21. Artemis Clyde Frog says:

    Roy Hibbert shouldn’t be an all-star this year. He’s muff cabbage

  22. jacknohara says:

    The problem is that those NBA centers of today are all lame players, Chris Dudley would make them cry …

    – Kendrick Perkins ? all he does is try to look mean !
    – D, Howard ? Like a clow in the middle, Bill Cartwright would sent him home calling for momma !
    – Varejão ? That boy is good, he has a lot of heart, the problem with him is that he just can´t ball !
    – Brook Lopes ? A 7 FT tall in a league like that, more tan 30 MPG for his career , less than 8 RPG ?? This dude woul´d be cut of a college team in the 80´s (And he´s the good brother)
    – Gasol and Noah – They might look like grinders today but if you compare them with the average C/PF of the 80´s or 90´s ….. they´re just like little girls in the paint …
    – T. Chandler – Just another Rosie in the Paint, and I´m still trying to figure this out: Why the Defensive Player of the Year isn´t in the All NBA defense First Team ???

  23. J says:

    Uh, Roy? The East could have 8 centers on the roster and you wouldn’t be at the All-Star game this year.

  24. G says:

    Just shut up Roy Hibbert nobody cares about what you have to say

  25. bjohn says:

    lets see how it works this year.

  26. [...] NBA Centers Feel Caught In 'Frontcourt' SqueezeNBA.com (blog)The one most often cited by the NBA was an evolution in today's style of play away from traditional centers, driven by a scarcity of the dinosaurs who once ruled the hardwood. When long-but-lithe forwards such as Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh willingly … [...]

  27. Dwyanekyrie32 says:

    i think they shouldn’t have changed the format.Because now you don’t have a big center down low or you don’t have a pf strecthing the floor

  28. Big Euro says:

    I just hope the coaches still appreciate the ardours of the 5 and pick deserving bigs for their team. Gasol, Varejao and Lopez to me are more deserving this year than incumbent All-Stars like Deng, Bosh, Aldridge and even Love at this point of the season.

    • slider821 says:

      Agreed, I don’t know if a guy on a terribly losing team should make it (Verejao), although good, someone has to get rebounds and make shots. Gasol though definitely deserves a bid. But this is a popularity contest, remember when Yao would still win by over a million votes when he was injured most of the season. China now drives this so expect Lin in the mix as well, despite not deserving of the bid.