Pacers need Hibbert to return to form
Sticking out like a sore thumb during the Pacers’ struggles over the last month or two is the play of big man Roy Hibbert, and it’s not just because he stands 7-foot-2. His inability to contribute — beyond protecting the rim, which has also dipped some — has played a part in the team’s slide. Since March 1, they are 10-13.
The Pacers need their All-Star center to play like one.
Over the last 10 games, Hibbert has averaged 9.0 points and 3.2 rebounds — and is shooting just 32.9 percent. During that span, he’s had two games where he failed to grab a rebound. In Friday’s loss in Miami, his first — and only — didn’t come until the 2:19 mark of the fourth quarter.
“Just got to find my way,” Hibbert said on Saturday after the team held a short practice consisting of a film session and free throws.
“We’re working through it. The process of doing that hasn’t been the best, I know that. Just trying to plug through it and just talk to the coaches and watch film.”
Watching film can be a huge help. That’s where he can see exactly what’s gone wrong, and potentially discover ways for improvement.
“Being in the right place, how low I am, how much of a stance I am,” Hibbert says of what he looks for. “Being a big guy is hard. You don’t bring the ball up, you have to either get the ball off the rebound, offensive boards or somebody has to pass it to you.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel has acknowledged the fading of his big man. Part of it, he hopes, is due to fatigue. And just like the starters, Hibbert is likely battling more mental fatigue than physical. Before being held out of Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee with the rest of the starters, Hibbert had played in all 78 games. They are carrying the weight of going after the No. 1 seed, didn’t handle their early success well and have had a tough time being the hunted as opposed to the hunter.
One week ago, Vogel stated that he was “concerned” by Hibbert’s lack of rebounding, in particular.
“He’s so committed to keeping his man off the glass, he’s not looking at the ball,” Vogel said.
Roy has rested, having Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off before returning to the court on Friday. And Hibbert, more than any other player, is critical to the team having success against Miami. After all, that’s undoubtedly why the Heat signed Greg Oden in the offseason and who Hibbert whipped in the first quarter of the Heat-Pacers game on March 26.
“We want to challenge him every time and test his conditioning level,” said Miami’s Chris Bosh. “If he is going to be down there every time we are going to make him work. I think before we were trying to avoid putting him in pick-and-roll situations and (Friday) I think we just attacked him a lot more.”
Some have suggested using the bench as a motivator. However with that move, the team would risk losing him mentally for the rest of the season.
“We just got to study it,” Vogel said on Saturday. “I’m actually having a lengthy edit put together of some his rebounding opportunities to see if we can pinpoint some things fundamentally that he can do better.”
Hibbert is a hard-working individual, and arguably the most caring guy on the team. Right now, though, his team needs the old Roy to return.