By Greg Auman, for NBA.com
Posted Jul 10 2009 5:29PM
Maitland, Fla. -- With no fans or public-address announcer in the RDV Sportsplex this week, the most entertaining commentary during Pacers games in the NBA Summer League has come from the familiar voice of Indiana president Larry Bird.
Bird, seated near press row in a polo shirt and shorts, has been impressed with Pacers rookie Tyler Hansbrough, but has been most vocal about second-year center Roy Hibbert, whose strong play could be key to the Pacers' hopes of returning to the playoffs next season.
"Roy's one of the hardest workers we have, and any time you put the time in, you're going to get better," Bird said. "There's a lot of things he has to get better with -- his strength, his balance -- but if he continues to do the things he's been doing, he's going to be a lot better."
Hibbert finished a solid week Friday with 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks as the Pacers beat Orlando to finish as the league's only unbeaten team at 5-0. Hibbert said he'd give himself a "B-minus" for the week, but said the consistent play will give him some personal momentum for the rest of the summer.
"I have some things to work on, my quickness and guarding smaller players," the 7-foot-2, 270-pound center said. "What I want to take from this, myself personally, was some confidence in my abilities. I'm really happy with my performance."
It's clear this week that the addition of Hansbrough has energized Hibbert -- the two had played each other in college, but didn't know each other well until the past week. It was Hibbert's Georgetown team who knocked Hansbrough and top-seeded North Carolina out in an NCAA regional final in 2007, despite Hansbrough going for 26 points. Now on the same team, they both seemed to benefit from the other's presence down low.
"I told him he's going to like playing with me," Hibbert said. "I'm a passing big. I like to pass the ball, and he likes to pass as well. I think we mesh well together. I can't wait for him to go out there and show people what he can do."
Hibbert had a quiet rookie season in Indiana after being taken last summer with the 17th pick out of Georgetown. He started 42 games, but averaged only 14 minutes and 7.4 points per game. The center averaged just 3.5 rebounds, a mark that humbly ranked 20th among NBA rookies. His only double-double came in the second week of the season.
In Orlando, Hibbert showed more aggressiveness on both ends of the court, and while Indiana returns the league's No. 2 rebounder in veteran Troy Murphy and adds Hansbrough to the mix, Hibbert has helped his chances at more playing time by getting in better shape.
"I wouldn't have been able to play 31 minutes last year," he said. "I'm running a lot, getting on the treadmill, going up the ramp at the arena, trying to get in the best shape I can. You may not see it, but I've put on a little more muscle."
Despite the year of NBA experience, Hibbert, 22, is actually a year younger than Hansbrough, and the young frontcourt is a big reason for optimism in Indiana.
"We've been meshing really well," Hibbert said. "Last year, when I tried to go to the offensive boards, two or three people would box me out. Not that I have him there, they're going to have a tough time boxing both of us out. When you have two guys who can really score in the post, it can ease a lot of things up."
Making the second team were Orlando's Kasib Powell, Philadelphia's Marreese Speights, Boston's J.R. Giddens and Nick Fazekas and Oklahoma City's D.J. White.
Forward Kevin Rogers had 14 points, and guard Gabe Pruitt finished a solid week with 13 points and nine assists.
Nets guard Chris Douglas-Roberts bounced back with 15 points, and Gary Forbes had 19 off the bench. Nets rookie Terrence Williams had six turnovers and scored eight points on 3-for-11 shooting.
Power forward Josh Duncan, a 6-9 rookie from Xavier, finished a promising week with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, and forward Derrick Brown, on loan from the Bobcats, had 11 points. Subs Andre Ingram (11) and Kevin Kruger (10) also played well off the bench.
Oklahoma City got 17 points from forward D.J. White and 14 from first-rounder James Harden, but had just eight assists while committing 18 turnovers.
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