The Herald Bulletin

May 6, 2014

Mike Lopresti: Fixing Hibbert a tall order


The Herald Bulletin

---- — INDIANAPOLIS — Roy Hibbert. Sigh.

What is there left to think, or say, or do?

Criticism?

Hypnotism?

Exorcism?

It is hard to come up with anything in recent memory like it; an All-Star in winter vanishes in the spring, many nights without a trace.

It is not often to see a guy accomplish so little in the box score but get written about, talked about and tweeted about so much. Three months ago, could anyone have imagined that it would come to this?

But the Indiana Pacers need him, and that's a fact of life. Never mind the public and media chatter of lineup exile. He is a decorated 7-foot-2 center, and the Pacers are playing a Washington team that clearly intends to take the physical fight to them.

"We know this is going to be a war," Wizards coach Randy Wittman mentioned.

You do not win a war by flying a white flag from your tallest tower. Hibbert has to be a factor. Or else.

"It's not just Roy, it's all of us," Frank Vogel said Tuesday. "I've got to get him some looks to help get him going. Everybody else has to understand, he wasn't 0-for-11 last night. He was 0-for-2.

"I've got to call his number sometimes, which I called it zero times."

Still. You wonder if he's sick. You wonder if he's hurt. You wonder if he's confused. You wonder if he sleeps, thinking about it all. You wonder if a whisk broom is needed to sweep up what's left of his confidence.

You wonder if he is staying off social media. He should, in the way an antelope should avoid a lion pride. Paul George has warned him about that. Nothing good comes from it.

That's what everyone does with Hibbert now. They wonder. Seven-footers do not just disappear.

A section at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is called Area 55, a nod to his uniform number. At the moment, Area 55 has more mysteries than Area 51. That's the one supposedly with the UFOs.

Maybe that's it. Maybe the real Roy Hibbert has been abducted by aliens.

Saturday's Game 7 was a hint of revival, but that idea lasted only long enough to change socks and opponents. And so the Indiana Pacers we've come to know and be baffled by are in the soup again.

They have to have Game 2 against the Wizards, just like they had to have Game 2 against the Atlanta Hawks. But as David West noted, Washington is a better team.

The numbers from Monday night have made the rounds by now. No points, no rebounds for Hibbert in 17:43. Meanwhile, Washington's backup big man, Drew Gooden, played 17:47 with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

"You can't overreact to that," Vogel cautioned of all those Hibbert zeroes. "He is giving us something, despite what the box score looks like."

But that ratio won't keep Indiana alive. Neither will getting blown away on the boards by the 20th-ranked rebounding team in the NBA.

Neither will that defense. In two regular season trips to Indianapolis, the Wizards averaged 69.5 points. They scored 61 in the first and fourth quarters Monday.

There is an obvious need for more effort, more grit, more muscle.

And more Hibbert. Sigh.

"We're at the point where we really need Roy," George said. "And we need him now."

But who can find him?

The FBI?

The NSA?

The Ghostbusters?

Reports have West getting in his face. That ought to be enough to motivate anyone.

"I have faith that he's going to find himself," George said.

But how?

Meditation?

Group therapy?

A witch doctor?

"I got to be a different Roy Hibbert than I have been," he said. "I'm just going to look within myself and go out there and figure it out."

Figure what out? That is the 7-2 puzzle. Hibbert is neither a rookie nor a playoff novice. If he was going to melt in the heat from the bright lights, you'd think that would have happened last year. Instead, he tormented Miami with 22 points and 10 rebounds a game.

He was the man in the middle, the power in the paint. Now he's the one nobody can recognize and everyone has questions about. He's Roy Hibbert. Sigh.