The Indiana Pacers, arguably, have had one of the most disastrous implosions of recent memory in the NBA. For more than half of the regular season they were, hands down, the best team in the league. However, just after the All-Star break, their consistency stopped. One of the key reasons is due to Roy Hibbert, who used to be their anchor and one of the Pacers’ best players; instead, the big man is destroying the Pacers’ chances and, quite possibly, his career.
One of the most prominent strengths the Pacers had last postseason, when they pushed Miami to the brink, was the superior strength, power and defense of the Pacers’ inside game of Hibbert and David West. In fact, it resulted in a big contract for Hibbert after he averaged 17 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 1.9 bpg during the 2012-2013 postseason.
However, as many have noticed this postseason, Hibbert has dropped off considerably, and Game One of the semi-finals against the Washington Wizards may have been his worst. In the game, he had no points, no rebounds, only one assist, two blocks and an astounding five fouls in almost 18 minutes of play. This, of course, goes along with his playoff average of 4.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.4 bpg and 3.9 fpg at 21 minutes per game. Worse yet is that Hibbert has now set a record for the worst player efficiency rating in the playoffs for an all-star at .8. Previously, the record went to Larry Costello at 5.3 in 1965. Unless the big man shapes up in the playoffs, he will hold that record possibly forever.
The playoffs were not the beginning of the end for Hibbert though. Ever since the all-star break, his numbers have been a travesty. As bad as his second half was, his stats were just “okay” rather than abysmal.
Typically when a player starts going through a slump, there can be many contributing factors. He could be worn out, injured, have family drama, or possess other psychological problems. The most common case tends to be someone who plays injured. However, with how long Hibbert has been slumping, it is doubtful he is hurt. In fact, there are games recently where he has played over 30 minutes. Furthermore, it is unlikely there is anything wrong with him physically.
On the court, Hibbert appears as though his confidence has been shaken. A man who used to be fearless on the boards and feared among most offenses has turned skittish. For arguably one of the bigger guys in the league at 7’2″, it makes little sense why his confidence and positioning is off. He also has been seemingly frustrated in games by fouling what seems like every play, something he rarely used to do. In the rare cases that he did, it would be in more than 12 minutes of play.
What is odd though is that Hibbert returned to his old self in the final game against the Atlanta Hawks. In that game he had 13 points, seven rebounds and five rebounds. It could be argued that his play is what pushed the Pacers past the surging Hawks, and as a result, many thought he was making a turnaround.
Instead Hibbert’s troubles continued, and as such, time is running out for him and the Pacers. No longer can Indiana rely on the big man. No longer can they just say he is on a slide. Most importantly, no longer should Coach Vogel be forced to start or play him at all. At this point, as seen in Game One, he has been doing more harm than good.
There still is time for Hibbert to make a change. Much like he came back rejuvenated during the final game against the Hawks, he can do the same and right the ship against the Wizards. There, of course, are rumors and speculation of bad blood between Hibbert and teammates, more specifically Paul George. However, this has not affected George, nor is it the first time a quality team has had players who are at odds.
It is evident Hibbert has psychological and confidence issues. As such, Indiana needs to spend time with the big man and figure it out. In other words, whether he wants to or not, they should order Hibbert to get some therapy. In case the issue runs deeper and he does have personal problems with players, he needs to be ordered therapy with said players.
It is a trying time now for Indiana. Something needs to change for their all-star center. If he does not shake his problems, not only will the Pacers lose the series against the Wizards and blow a season they were favored to win it all, but Hibbert may never get his confidence back. The lack of confidence could result in him being played less and less, possibly to the point of losing his career altogether.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey