That NBA Slogan? Pacers’ Hibbert Is BIG

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INDIANAPOLIS – In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man will be king, so sayeth the proverb. And in an NBA in which legitimate old-school centers are as rare as hair parts, Roy Hibbert can be a new millennium Kareem.

No offense to roundball’s royalty, but everything and everyone is relative to his time. We’re in a time when even the All-Star Game offers up three “front-court” starters per side, a white flag on the supply of legitimately talented traditional centers.

Back when true giants roamed the NBA’s courts – Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, Russell, Thurmond, Lanier, Gilmore, Reed, Walton, Malone, Olajuwon, Ewing, Robinson, Parish (see, don’t even need first names) – Hibbert might not have cracked the Top 10. Now that they’ve gone the way of the dinosaurs, the Indiana Pacers’ big man reigns as a 7-foot-2 throwback, the biggest Komodo dragon on the block.

And don’t think the Miami Heat haven’t noticed. Two games into the Eastern Conference finals, Hibbert is averaging 24.0 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 57.6 percent from the floor and 83.3 percent from the foul line. Of his boards, 6.5 percent have come at the offensive end, contributing to Indiana’s 88 points in the paint through two games.

And in a series in which MVP LeBron James is a minus-4 after two games and Heat sidekick Dwyane Wade is minus-10 (for those who favor the NBA plus/minus metric), it’s worth noting that Hibbert is a plus-14.

None of which has been a surprise to Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, dating back long before Sunday’s Game 3 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (8:30 p.m ET, on TNT).

“He has a great impact,” Spoelstra said Thursday after practice. “This guy has improved dramatically.

“All of us remember what he was like four years ago on pick-and-rolls. What’s interesting about a guy like Roy Hibbert is you see young ‘bigs’ get attacked on pick-and-rolls on a nightly basis. Some players never get better. They continue on the scouting report, year after year, for a decade – ‘attack this guy.’ Roy Hibbert, every single year, has been diligent to improve that, knowing that [that is] everybody’s attack, to the point now he’s one the best pick-and-roll defenders in the league. And you don’t necessarily view him that way. [But] he has that type of impact.”

So much so, in fact, that the Heat have avoided using Hibbert’s man in its pick-and-rolls, a tactic that New York dared to try without much success. That’s no small concession from the league’s defending champions and best offense.

Oh sure, Miami scored 60 points in the paint in Game 1 and 100 so far through two games. But the most important four from the series opener came with Hibbert watching from the side, his length and rim protection – Pacers coach Frank Vogel considers him the best in the NBA at that skill – shelved on the Heat’s final two possessions.

Everyone knows how well that worked. James got in for layups twice, including the game-winner, generating both a victory and one of the NBA’s biggest frenzies of second-guessing in recent memory. Which was harmless enough, though it did assure us of a couple things for however long this series lasts:

Hibbert won’t be on the side again at the end of a tight game, unless the refs have put him there via foul calls. He and James are joined at the hip as each team’s most pivotal player.

Paul George is the open-floor counterpart to Miami’s superstar, of course. George is the budding two-way, Pippen-playalike with whom James might feel some kinship and envision future Olympic gold, hence the little hand slap after three quarters Friday night. But Hibbert is the guy past and over whom James will literally and figuratively have to lead the Heat if they’re going to make it three Finals in as many years, and two rings.

On reputation, on athletic ability, on the sheer esthetics of what the sporting public has come to expect of NBA impact players, James is quintessential. Hibbert, well, is not. He still looks ungainly running the court, still appears to be widest at the hips and seems as easy for a tough, physical defender to fold up as a beach chair.

Miami’s trying, though, with Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem and even Joel Anthony and, so far, it hasn’t worked. Hibbert’s long body, at age 26, still might be catching up, but his mental game has advanced considerably, both through his five-year career and from October till now.

He knows and has a feel for what to do with the ball when he gets it down low, either in the offense or off the glass – even if it doesn’t always seem like it. His hooks and short jumpers in traffic work for him, no matter how much they rattle around before dropping. Hibbert is a deft passer, especially on the inch-for-inch scale, and his hands have improved.

Defensively, he is one of the best at using his full length and taking advantage of the NBA’s view on “verticality,” which allows a defender to jump straight up against a driving ball handler without fear of an automatic foul call on contact. Swipes with the arms, yes, that still will draw the whistles. But Hibbert largely stays away from that, relying on his size to thwart those who test him.

His 2.6 blocks per game were the most so far in his career, and those don’t include the shots he alters in the shooters’ hands or those that never challenge him at all. As for staying on the floor, Hibbert – playing on the first year of a four-year, $58 million deal – fouled out only five times this season and not at all in this postseason.

“I always tell guys, if they get beat, don’t foul them, I’ll be there to clean it up,” Hibbert told reporters in Miami. “It’s just that I feel I’m important. I want to be on the court. That’s why they brought me back. That’s why they gave me all this money.”

And that’s why he’s getting all this attention, from both the public and the Miami game-planners.

97 Comments

  1. baboy says:

    people always base their opinions on recent games.. hibbert—> kareem? what a joke

  2. LA62013 says:

    Heat will win in 5

  3. Pogi8 says:

    Hello Pacer fans!!! Pacer in 5.

  4. ko0kiE says:

    “back in the days” .. as if all those players played during the same time… chamberlain certainly never played ewing or olajuwon. we’re talking about 50 years of nba here. I hate it when people talk about it as if there were a magical time where all those players played against each other in some epic battles..
    u cannot compare current players with ALL great players during the existence of the nba.. compare them to Chamberlain, Russel, Jabbar.. fine. or with ewing, olajuwon, robinson, shaq fine.. but there were never days when all those players played at the same time.

    • ko0kiE says:

      my point is… this year’s Roy Hibbert would be in the Top10 of Big men almost any year… think about it. name me the top 10 players of 1970 for example… or 1987.. 1995.. whatever. each year max. a handful big men come to my mind.
      sure, if you compare to great big men of all time, hibbert is nowhere near top 10.

  5. J says:

    prob in 1 maybe 2 years he will be averaging
    20pts
    11reb
    3blks
    incredible inprovement lots of potensial and soon if not already a top 5 center
    Heat in 5!!!!!

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  7. sanjay says:

    the deal got changed the moment lebron went down the post ala shaq, for which the pacers do not have any answers. It will draw both hilbert/george, or hilbert/west doing the dirty work inside leaving other heat players to either shoot or drive to the basket( haslem/anderson/bosh will live there from now on).
    If wade can keep up todays momentum, miami can do better as 3 pointers have barely started falling!

  8. NoHomeTeam says:

    Miami or Indiana it doesn’t matter they’ll beat up on each other and the Spurs will be waiting,San Antiono in 6.

  9. zero says:

    Ha ha…too many talks for pacer fans…how about that blow out loss

  10. poge says:

    how bout shaq

  11. Jim says:

    Reggie

    99 to 78 in 4 th. still think Miami won’t win?

  12. Jim says:

    Whose bright idea to have Reggie Miller call a Pacer’s playoff game? He is clearly biased. Get rid of him

  13. Kimmy says:

    Regardless if the Pacers win or not (not), I must say, I have gained some respect for this team during the playoff season. I guess I’ll watch their games next season. I’m impressed that there is no particular star and they all play so well together. Similar to the Grizzlies. That is called teamwork. No drama. Lakers, take note!!!!!!! Go OKC!!!!

  14. Bojan says:

    In your article the one name missing among the great centers is Shaquille O’neal, keep that in mind when you write about great centers.

  15. nbaknickabocka01 says:

    witness greatness tonight. whoever wins game 3 is taking it. as a fan of competition i want the “underdog” pacers to win. but king james messed up crunch time he’s gona try hard to make that up tnite. so stop pre-determining the outcome yall aint fortune tellers

  16. JimD54 says:

    DWade should be sitting out tonight, the NBA is a joke when it comes to favoring these so called superstars. Wade tries to run away from the dirty player image but it always seems to catch up with him. I hope he doesn’t catch a elbow to the head tonight.

  17. Vin says:

    I hope this series go all the ways to 7 games, that would be really interesting.

  18. Jason says:

    You’re not down for cheesypoofs.. I know Birdman wasn’t down…I know Paul George was down..

  19. kinch says:

    hibbert > dwight

    =

    skill/smart > athletic/stupid

  20. amigo says:

    whoever wins game 3 will win the series.it’s gonna be pacers vs spurs. spurs in game 5!!!!!

    • Be Realistic says:

      By your own admission whoever wins game 3 wins the series. Miami blew out your team at home so Miami vs Spurs and I take Miami!

  21. Reggin says:

    I am not sure Miami will win another game as long as the Pacers play the way they have in the first two and Hibbert is on the floor. Sorry folks the one year Heat dynasty has come to a close.

    James is the best player in the world and deserves the MVP but without him Miami would not even be in the playoffs. It’s all over but Wades crying folks.

  22. Miami Heat Fan says:

    Prediction….
    BUCKS in 4
    BULLS in 5
    PACERS in 6
    SPURS in 7
    and the HEAT REPEAT!

    ……maybe….maybe…:-)

  23. jen says:

    sign greg oden for next year, hope pacers and heat in playoff next year, go heat
    heat at 6

  24. sports fan says:

    Miami’s biggest weakness is really showing now. They’re going to have problems with Hibbert the whole series. I wouldn”t count on Heat in 6 anymore.

    • chigchig says:

      lol yeah coz these problems hurt them last year when they were down more bigs then they are this year..
      the Heat are goingto dominate the pacers.. but I agree with you that the heat wont win in 6.. coz there not dropping another game to these over achieving bums

  25. bensuncle says:

    Pacers win if they limit turnovers to less than 15 and make 80% of free throws, and continue to pound the ball inside. Heat can’t run if there are no long rebounds.

    • Be Realistic says:

      They limited turnovers to 10 and still bot Beat by 18 points at home! Try again Pacer fan LOL.

  26. Big Mike says:

    the Miami Midgets are in big trouble. big as in Rot Hibbert. it was just a matter of time before they met a team that did not have to double team LeBron thus freeing up defenders to guard against the three. that’s why Ray Allen and that punk from Duke can’t hit threes ,they’re not wide open cause somebody is guarding them. Miami was praying that teams would continue to double LeBron but Paul George is doing it by himself. so what if LeBron gets 60 points they still would lose because the rest of the Heat will score in single digits…hahaha. the Miami Midgets should have known SIZE DOES MATTER!….lol.

  27. warlord says:

    miami will win this series….I’m sure that they can bet indiana
    indiana fans don’t be too much excited….you will see in your own home court

  28. warlord says:

    miami will win this series….I’m sure that they can bet indiana

    • usmainesun says:

      only if the referees help them.

      • Be Realistic says:

        Actually a blow out shows that! Plus Indiana has gone to the line more than Miami 3 games in a row though. Sorry Pacer fans but you can’t blame the refs cause they helped you all they could. LOL losers!

  29. CJ says:

    Hibbert has improved every year since his freshman year at Gtown. He’s become a top 3 Center.

  30. James says:

    this team started off as bad as like 3-7 for the first month of the season. People started ruling them out because granger was absent. but that is not the case. They found a way to put stephenson in the lineup and move george to the small forward. they kept changing it around and then once december George hit his sweet spot as a player when he dropped 33 on the bulls. then stephenson started being a consistently producing player on both ends of the court (still has his problems). then hibbert after the all-star break went from 41% of first half of season to over 50% in the second half. This team got beat on all year and they’ve been learning and getting better all year. this team sticks together and they all love each other like brothers. This team is a team. no superstar scorers. Just communication on defense and ball movement on offense. Nothing special. Just old school basketball. Let the pacers take u guys back in the day and watch the game

  31. Monty says:

    What happened last year?

    thanks for coming out.

  32. JJP says:

    Add Westbrook and Durant to Heat , they would be unbeatable! Bigger market is in their future for sure.

  33. Rhedz says:

    I say pacers will win game 3 but the series will end in a 4-2, miami 4 pacers 2…yes pacers are good but miamis way way way better….i respect pacers for giving all theyve got in this series…legit contenders…maybe in the next 2 season pacers will dominate..but not after james collectes his 3rd ring and fourth for wade…

  34. Vanessa says:

    Love ya Heat! No matter what, you are the best team in the NBA at this time! I am not a bandwaggonist so I will stick with you no matter what. Heat in 6!

    • HeatfansinceWade says:

      Good for you Vanessa. We will Beat the Pacers, No doulbt! and after last nights Blow out, The Heat will win faster than even you predicted. Heat in 5, 6 max!

  35. Iamaceltic says:

    I kinda of see Indiana wining this championship and if not,then they definitely have this series.BTW the over-rated miami should be happy the officials won game 1 for them, cos clearly game was all Indiana’s also.

    • mee(a)t says:

      i don’t think you’ve been watching the games

      • Reggin says:

        Miami is lucky to have won a game. Maybe you shoudl be watching. Game 1 will be their last win of the season.

      • chigchig says:

        @Reggin
        Being wrong must be getting old for you by now right?

        They just got beat by bout 20 and hibbert had his best career game (def playoff game) ever

        what in your right mind tells you this team minus granger is going to do what this EXACT team with granger couldnt?

      • Hey says:

        hey reggin! saying something? lol

  36. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    LEBRON IS PLAYING AS HARD AS HE COULD POSSIBLY PLAY – THE HEAT WILL LOSE THIS SERIES BECAUSE WADE IS OLD – BOSH IS NOT REBOUNDING & KEEPS SHOOTING 3’S – AND THE BENCH IS NOT DOING WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO …
    INDIANA MIGHT PULL OFF ONE OF THE GREATEST UPSETS IN NBA HISTORY …

    • eLBelowJab says:

      the biggest upset? the bucks beating the heat and winning it all is a great example of the biggest upset. the pacers has all the tools to win against any team 4 times in a 7 game series. they are that good and should surprise anyone if they beat the heat. no shame also to lose to the pacers. if the bucks/heat match up is set at 20:1 then this i think is 3:2 still in favor of miami.

      • Be Realistic says:

        When did you come to that conclusion? I guess the Heat blowing out the Pacers changed your mind LOL. The odds are more like 4:1 Heat. Heat in 5! 6 max.

  37. josh says:

    Can’t wait to see the game.
    I want to see Indiana win today and the the series.
    The Miami heat are are great team, but I hate how they think that they are the best.
    LeBron doesn’t equal best player on the earth, sick of hearing that on tv, hes only got 1 Ring.
    Say he’s the best when he gets 6.

    • bryce says:

      They been saying lebron the best since he was in highschool. You will have to stop watching ball or sports all together to avoid the guy lol

    • Be Realistic says:

      I guess Robert Horry with 7 rings is better than Jordan in your eyes lol. Any way back to reality, the Heat just blew out the Pacers on the Pacers home court by 18 LOL.

  38. Miami Heat Fan says:

    Pacers fans, don’t get too much excited. The series just tied and the Heat is not yet ON, watch game it’s gonna be HOT in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. :-)

  39. mark says:

    Lets go heat:)

  40. Thaddeus says:

    When it comes down to it Wade or Bosh has to average 17 + with the bench scoring 20 + to win this series. For Indiana Hibbert has to get less than 4 fouls per game and average 18 + to maintain pressure on the pressure-cookers (Heat).

  41. 2sday says:

    I’m waiting until the referees, the sports commentators SOMEBODY notices that all the Indiana Centers on defense run down and just stand in the paint – guarding NO ONE – waiting for someone to come into the middle. No 3 second calls – nothing. Why is that? It happens EVERY SINGLE defensive play, no matter WHO the center is. So it’s obviously an Indiana strategy. What’s up with the referees doing their jobs and watching for cheats. Come on commentators ya’ll won’t get fined for speaking up – so why are you silent?

  42. Loki says:

    Even if the pacers lose this series they probably are going to walk away with a ton of respect. They’re legit now.

  43. realist2013 says:

    Miami facing a team thats not crippled for a change yay. Dint get me wrong I like Wade since day 1 and Lebron but the media making them look like they are dominating for winning series against a weak bucks team none of which the games were dominant as they should be. Then follow it up on a bulls team minus their leading 2 scorers and hinrich.

    Even if its a team I like I want the games the praise to be legit not just off hype. Thats like me playing against a group of kids and saying I’m dominating. Awe should only be measured when the opponent is 90% +.

    Bosh too light to play roy good series

    • Loki says:

      That’s how I feel. I love the spurs but I ignored the Lakers series because well.. Lol it was doomed from the start and did nothing to validate the Spurs dominance

    • Propz says:

      Granger is out. The Pacers are crippled. They are just so good people don’t notice.

    • Be Realistic says:

      The Media is making them look dominating? No the way they Blew out the pacers at home is making the Heat look dominant lol.

  44. W/E says:

    Hibbert is 7,2″ but the guy can barely jump 3 inches from the ground, if he was more athletic he could have dominate the smaller miami centers big time,anyway his length still gives him a big advantage in this series.

  45. Adam says:

    I know the series is not over yet, but go Pacers! I would really love to see you guys crush the Heat!

  46. Michael says:

    San Antonio-Indiana in the Finals!Pacers are too big for the HEat..

  47. cp10 says:

    Pacers upset the Heat? Pacers will SWEEP the Heat at home court, no kidding.

  48. theholyspecatator says:

    whoever wins game 3 is winning the series…this is such a huge game tonight…i expect all hands on deck from miamis bench, wade has got to become the wade from 2011 and go pure flash, he needs to drop 25-30 bosh gotta get up to 20-25..outside shooters gotta be ready to go..they gotta get goin early..and crash them boards!!! miami easily has what it takes, scary but we truly havent seen miami play lights out like they did during the streak…i guess they need to be clocked a few times in the face in order for them to react..which is not a good trait of a champ but you take what you can get…gotta give props to indy..they will be legit contenders for quite a while and will be giving heat problems for years to come..

  49. wooderson says:

    Indiana have won one game, they wont win another one. and how dare you call the greatest shooting guard since Michael Jordan a “sidekick”. disgraceful

  50. Fefe (Nets) says:

    Go Hibbert and continue on putting up big games!!! I hope that the Pacers can upset the Heat!

    • nba fan says:

      UPSET? if pacers won the series, u will call it upset, what do u think of miami “unbeatable”,

    • Reggin says:

      The only upset would be if Miami won another game. You folks have to realize Miami has become the underdog. Pacers are just that good. James knows this. He is doing all he can but is surrounded by average players like in Cleveland.

      • bk says:

        LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL. miami the underdog? wow….. you must be joking right?

  51. Chris says:

    Pause