When the Portland Trail Blazers offered Roy Hibbert a max $58.4 million, four-year deal it seemed like it was asking a lot from a one-time All Star who had a strong start to the shortened 2012 season, but struggled to the end. Hibbert was improving and had become a good player, but perhaps not someone you throw a max contract at and build a team around.
There were concerns when the Pacers decided to match that offer sheet, locking them into Hibbert and Danny Granger long term with David West's free agency upcoming and an untapped talent in Paul George. Hibbert and Granger were borderline all stars but did not have the consistency to be the bedrock of a championship franchise. For a team on the rise, that did not seem to fit in.
Or so we thought.
Hibbert was clearly a big part of what the Pacers want to build. Good centers are hard to find. Even with countless examples of centers overpaid simply for the use of their size.
His first year on that massive contract was not near the all star levels he displayed in the lockout-shortened 2012 season. He averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this year but established himself as one of teh contenders for the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Award. His Pacers were the third seed in the Eastern Conference for the full 82-game season and many feel they have a chance to make the Conference Finals and -- gasp -- challenge the Heat.
That is all a ways away. The five-year pro still needed to prove himself in the Playoffs crucible.
Against the Knicks, his play has been absolute key to the Pacers' 2-1 series lead.
In the 2013 Playoffs, Hibbert is averaging 14.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He has upped his game against the Knicks, averaging 14.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in the three games so far. There is something to be said for consistency in this case.
No game seemed bigger than Hibbert's 24-point, 12-rebound effort against the Knicks in Game Three on Saturday which had Hibbert entertaining the idea of wearing a monacle to the postgame press conference. That is confidence.
Hibbert is feeling confidence now as he has proven himself to be the key for the Pacers when they win. Hibbert averages 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in wins and 9.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in losses. It seems that Hibbert has been key for the Pacers playoff success. New York has not been able to solve him even with former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. The Heat do not seem to have the center to solve him either.
With Hibbert, it seems like he knows he has to shed the pre-draft conceptions that he is lazy. He spent the summer refining his game with Tim Duncan. It appears to be working as Hibbert goes through a strong postseason and makes his case to be one of the NBA's best centers.
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